How civil society can adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

digital man

(Drew Graham, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Silvia Magnoni, Head of Civil Society Communities , World Economic Forum & Antony Declercq, Research Consultant, Pact


It is a time of transformation for the civil society sector – and it should be perceived as such by those civil society organizations who, amidst major geopolitical shifts, rising environmental challenges and ongoing social changes, are coming to understand – and experience – the impact of the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Building directly on the third digital revolution, which has connected billions of people through mobile devices and the internet, the technologies of our post-digital world are poised to further change all aspects of our lives. They are radically altering our ability to create, access and use information; to relate to each other and to issues that matter to us; and to create resources of value. These changes are generating new needs and social issues that must be appreciated and addressed by civil society organizations working with individuals and communities.

Some of these challenges are both new and extremely complex, which means societal actors often lack the mechanisms and experience with which to mitigate them. Examples include discriminatory outcomes in algorithmic decision-making; individual and group privacy violations resulting from data-sharing projects and maps; high volatility associated with crypto-philanthropy; lack of agency on the part of workers pushed to sign off on the use of their data; and bias and misrepresentation in virtual reality storytelling.

For civil society organizations this new context requires, more than ever, that they have eyes and ears on the ground in order to capture and respond to these new needs and challenges in a timely way. And beyond this, the rate of change today and the speed of technological advancements require these organizations to look at the big picture and fundamentally rethink their roles and mandates, acquire new capacities and skills, and transition to organizational, partnership and funding models that will allow them to become more empowered, agile and informed agents for social good.

Civil Society

What is civil society?

Whether you call it “third sector”, “social sector” or “volunteerland”, civil society includes an array of different causes, groups, unions and NGOs. Their combined aim is to hold governments to account, promoting transparency, lobbying for human rights, mobilizing in times of disaster and encouraging citizen engagement.

Ranging from small online campaigns to giants such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, civil society employs around 54 million full-time workers and has a global volunteer force of over 350 million.

The World Economic Forum is committed to accelerating the impact of civil society organizations. With a view to this, it created Preparing Civil Society for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a multi-sectoral platform to support the transformation of the social sector and its inclusion in the governance of emerging technologies.

Civil society is a key stakeholder for driving public-private collaboration and advancing the Forum’s mission. Through dialogue series and platform initiatives, civil society actors from a wide range of fields come together to collaborate with government and business leaders on finding and advocating solutions to global challenges.

There are good stories to tell around how the sector has been embracing emerging technologies to pioneer new ways to fulfill their missions. Algorithms have been used to predict how forest fires spread and how best to stop them; distributed ledgers have been used in the provision of aid and resources to refugees; unmanned aerial vehicles have been used to deliver vital medical supplies in hard-to-reach areas; and VR technologies have been used to create immersive experiences that highlight issues such as environmental conservation in ways that were not possible before.

At the same time, the transformation at hand goes beyond the mere adoption of technologies and other innovative tools. It is a deeper, more fundamental transition to new roles, new structures and new systems for the delivery of social good. Here are three considerations for civil society organizations as they continue along their journey of change.

1) Be ready to play new and different roles

A key function of a thriving civil society sector within democracies is its ability to promote accountability, fairness, trust and transparency in society. This role is more important than ever in the current context, whereby technological change – if not governed appropriately – risks creating new inequalities and reinforcing existing ones. There is a huge need for civil society involvement in influencing how the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds and how, on the one hand, its positive impacts can be directed towards those groups in society most in need of help, and on the other hand how its negative impacts can be prevented in the first place. Civil society organizations are expected to enter radically new spaces and to demonstrate their (historical) value as, for example, advocates, watchdogs or capacity builders against the complex and ever-changing context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

2) Be ready to address and resolve a range of tensions in order to perform those roles responsibly

There are a series of hardcore questions that organizations will need to grapple with as they navigate their approach to innovation and technology. What is driving civil society’s motivations to use technology? Which problems are we solving? How do we design systems, organizations and cultures for innovation? How do we remain independent while still relying on algorithmic tools or corporate-owned digital platforms for our work? How do we learn and share best practices? How do we allocate limited resources on technology in the short versus the long term? The ability for a civil society organization to successfully and responsibly navigate technological change is dependent on what the organization makes of these tensions and the decisions taken around them.

3) Be ready to work with other stakeholders in shaping the future of the sector

The nature of technological change, combined with other drivers such as closing civic spaces, means that civil society organizations cannot change on their own, or in silos. To a certain extent, their engagement with other sectors for their partnership, operational and funding models requires support and benefit from multi-stakeholder actions to incentivise radical change. Philanthropy, government, industry: they all share responsibility in creating the supporting structures, collaborative platforms and enabling conditions to accelerate civil society’s readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is ultimately a game of systemic change that all actors must play in concert.

 

It is time for civil society to stand on the frontline of responsible innovation. The challenges ahead are manifold and undoubtedly present a risk; but the opportunities and need to put people at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are too critical for the sector not to take it.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

These countries are best at attracting and nurturing talented workers

Falsified medicines: new rules to enhance patients’ safety

Climate change hits the poor hardest. Mozambique’s cyclones prove it

MWC 2016 LIVE: 5G to embrace unlicensed bands and Wi-Fi

One-sixth of the world’s economy has now pledged to cut CO2 to zero by 2050

‘A trusted voice’ for social justice: Guterres celebrates 100 years of the International Labour Organization

5 steps that could end the plastic pollution crisis – and save our ocean

Satellites and data are going to help us phase out fossil fuels. Here’s how

The new ethical dilemmas in medicine of the 21st century

Digital development: technology-enabled, but human-centric

GSMA announces new keynote speakers for 2018 Mobile World Congress

A third of young people polled by UN, report being a victim of online bullying

Youth2030: UN chief launches bold new strategy for young people ‘to lead’

Medical students, climate change and health: an unorthodox combination

3 megatrends for the factories of the future

Canada leading the way on women’s inclusion and empowerment, says OECD

Be a part of the World Forum on Future Trends in Defence and Security

This is how rice is hurting the planet

Libya: Heavy shelling and civilian deaths ‘blatant violation’ of international law – UN envoy

Does the West reserve the fate of Libya and Syria for others? How does this relate to the EU’s Neighborhood Policy?

EU-Turkey relations: EU considers imposing sanctions while Turkey keeps violating Cyprus’ sovereignty

Reform of road use charges to spur cleaner transport and ensure fairness

Tax revenues continue increasing as the tax mix shifts further towards corporate and consumption taxes

World Cancer Day: Early cervical cancer diagnosis could save lives of over 300,000 women

Brussels wins game and match in Ukraine no matter the electoral results

Marginalized groups hit hardest by inequality and stigma in cities

“Be aware where you put your I Agree signature on and something else”; now Facebook by default opts you in an unseen private data bazar

GSMA Mobile 360 – Latin America at Mexico City: Intelligently Connecting to a Better Future, in association with The European Sting

Celebrate love, strengthen partnerships to end AIDS epidemic by 2030 says UN agency

A quarter of Americans have no retirement savings

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: The fruits of sustainability and decent work

UN experts urge India to align new anti-trafficking bill with human rights law

UN health agency spotlights stalled effort to close health divide across Europe, in new report

Tobacco-free Public Space in Africa’s Most Populous Country

EU joint response to disasters: deal reached with Council

How Japan can take the lead with an ageing workforce

These patients are sharing their data to improve healthcare standards

Banks must take bold action to fight climate change. This is how they can do it

Is it true that the G20 wants to arrest tax evasion of multinationals?

Yesterday’s “jokes” and sarcasm by Digital Single Market’s Vice President Ansip on EU member states’ right to protect their telco markets

North Macedonia President, credits dialogue and diplomacy for setting a decades-long ‘name dispute’

DR Congo Ebola outbreak now a Public Health Emergency, UN health agency declares

European Union: Retail sales show deep recession

MEPs cap prices of calls within EU and approve emergency alert system

Why the financial scandals multiply?

Bring killers of journalists to justice: UN agency seeks media partners for new campaign

Siemens-Alstom merger: Can Germany and France lobby to circumvent EC’s rejection, against EU consumers’ interests?

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

This billion-dollar campaign wants to protect 30% of the planet by 2030

YOUTH WILL BE A KEY FOCUS IN THE NEXT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Work Together to Build a New Type of International Relations and a Community with a Shared Future for Humanity

IMF’s Lagarde: Estimating Cyber Risk for the Financial Sector

Is the West gradually losing Africa?

‘Cataclysmic events’ in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, began ‘global push’ against nuclear weapons says Guterres, honouring victims

More solidarity and interaction between generations needed to challenge age stereotypes and ingrained ageism

A new generation of women leaders is making waves in the Arab world

INTERVIEW: Advancing human rights, a ‘never ending process’ says new UN rights chief

Why a cash-free future might not be as close as you think

‘Health is a right, not a privilege’ says WHO chief on World Health Day

Interview with ourselves: the mental health of health professionals

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s