Partnering with Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Challenge

Growing public backlash against technology, disruptions in 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, a broader set of stakeholders from industry, philanthropy, government and academia recognize that building inclusive futures amid fast-paced technological change will require stronger engagement with people, communities and organizations in civil society -- in the short-term and for the long-term.

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 (CS4IR) is a multi-stakeholder platform to accelerate civil society readiness and responsiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, by designing inclusive approaches, creating collaborative evidence and investing in local communities with industry, philanthropy, governments and others on technology.

The CS4IR value proposition includes: 

  • Providing a multi-stakeholder platform for identifying and testing new partnership models and approaches with civil society on technology

  • Connecting industry, government, academia and philanthropy with a network of regional and global expert civil society leaders and experts on digital and emerging technologies

  • Helping to create, contextualize and disseminate critical strategic intelligence on digital and emerging technology for broader understanding and guidance for civil society organisations and their partners

  • Building evidence for change through both accelerating existing initiatives and co-creating multi-stakeholder “prototypes” for collective action and evidence aimed to scale civil society learning and partnership models with other stakeholders

Building on the Forum's multi-stakeholder platform, the initiative focuses on three thematic areas for action for industry, government, academia and other leaders on partnering with civil society amid fast-paced technological change -- through seven working groups:

Theme 1: Designing inclusive and collaborative approaches for technology

Investing in long-term strategies to build more inclusive approaches to digital and emerging technologies

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, 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; Daniel Bedoya, Access Now)

Theme 2: Creating collaborative evidence on the impact of technology on people

Developing shared evidence for understanding new challenges for marginalized populations in the Fourth Industrial Revolution - 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; Linnet Taylor, Tilburg 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 (Co-leads: Melissa Huerta, Mozilla Foundation; Jochai Ben-Avie, Mozilla; Chris Worman, TechSoup; Hector Mujica,

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: Investing in local communities

Investing in critical infrastructure and strategic intelligence for communities and organisations underrepresented in technology conversations

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