Partnering with Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Challenge

Growing public backlash against technology, disruptions of future workforces and new digital threats to already-vulnerable populations are all signs of an increasingly unequal Fourth Industrial Revolution. In an age of increased transparency and shifts in power, a broader set of stakeholders recognize that building a sustainable and cohesive world amid fast-paced technology change requires stronger engagement with people, communities and organizations in civil society – in the short-term and for the long-term.

From deploying transformative technology products to developing new digital protections in already-unequal societies, it’s no longer a question for industry and government of “why” but “how” to involve civil society and citizens in the governance of digital and emerging technologies. How can philanthropy, industry, government and other stakeholders build more participatory and accountability models for the design, deployment and governance of their technologies with civil society? What partnership models and evidence are needed to broaden strategic civil society engagement with technology, and accelerate civil society to be ready and responsive civil societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

From deploying technology products to developing new digital protections in already-unequal societies, it's no longer a question for industry and government of "why" but "how" to involve civil society organisations and citizens in the governance of digital and emerging technologies.

How can leaders from industry, philanthropy, academia and government strategically engage with civil society in their development, deployment, use and governance of technology? What partnership models, evidence and levels of trust are needed to accelerate broader civil society engagement with technology in key areas and effect organisational change for ready and responsive civil societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Opportunity

The Partnering with Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution Initiative is a multi-stakeholder platform inviting industry, philanthropy, government and academia to take action and engage with civil society in the development, deployment, use and governance of technology.

Launched in 2019, the initiative focuses on three areas to identify, pilot and scale up new partnership models for engaging the world’s nonprofits on technology in the decade of delivery:



  • Design: Designing inclusive and collaborative approaches for technology with civil society;


  • Evidence: Creating shared evidence on the impact of technology on people; and


  • Investment: Investing in digital transformation and long-term strategies for grassroots change

Theme 1: DESIGN

Designing inclusive and collaborative approaches to technology

Minimising Tradeoffs for Technology for Good: Partnering with industry on long-term strategies for civil society engagement in technology and social impact work (Co-leads: Sonja Betschart, WeRobotics; Rhodri Davies, Charities Aid Foundation; Mark Latonero, Data and Society; Buffy Price, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Element AI; Linda Raftree, MERL Tech)

Practical Digital Security Support for Civil Society: Partnering with industry on designing protocols and protection of at-risk users on current platforms (Co-leads: Seamus Tuohy, Human Rights Watch; Brett Solomon, Daniel Bedoya, Access Now)

Theme 2: EVIDENCE

Creating shared evidence on the impact of technology on people -- to drive stronger policies and responsible practice

Group Data and Human Rights: Partnering across civil society to identify new digital threats and needed change in policy and practice for protecting vulnerable populations (Co-leads: Stuart Campo, Centre for Humanitarian Data; Nathaniel Raymond, Yale University)

Civil Society and Future Workforces: Partnering with government and industry stakeholders on the future of work to identify opportunities for strategic collaboration and investment in Latin America (Co-leads: Melissa Huerta, Mozilla Foundation; Jochai Ben-Avie, Mozilla; Chris Worman, TechSoup; Hector Mujica, Google.org)

Future of Civil Society: Partnering with stakeholders to drive optimal civil society futures and minimize societal risks in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Co-leads: Aarathi Krishnan, IFRC; Kathy Peach, Nesta; Chris Worman, TechSoup; Nanjira Sambuli, World Wide Web Foundation)

Theme 3: INVESTMENT

Investing in digital transformation and long-term strategies for grassroots change

Responsible Digital Transformation for Social Impact: Partnering with philanthropy and industry to invest in nonprofit digital transformation and building digital capacities in local civil society organisations (Co-leads: Louise James, Accenture Development Partnerships; Lauren Woodman, NetHope)

Mobilising and Inspiring Action with Technology: Partnering with philanthropy, industry and other stakeholders to accelerate foresight and learning to drive advocacy and mobilisation for global public goods (e.g. rights protection, civic engagement, public sector transparency) (Co-leads: Nighat Dad, Digital Rights Foundation; Michael Jarvis, Transparency and Accountability Initiative; Sam Gregory, WITNESS; Alexa Koenig, UC Berkeley; Glen Tarman, Thomson Reuters Foundation; Wolfgang Jamann, International Civil Society Centre)

For more information and to get involved, please contact David Sangokoya, Project Lead, Society and Innovation, at CivilSociety4IR@weforum.org. 

#responsible4IR

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