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Future for Civil Society - 7 Drivers of Change

Covid-19 has created uncertainties in our life and work, and it is impacting the civil society across the globe and in India. The lack of clarity about the future makes it even more challenging to keep focused and make decisions. At Civil Society Academy (CSA), we want to support you in this navigation process, facilitate your exploration of the unknown so that you can innovate new path breaking ways to deal with this new situation.

About 3 months ago, our innovation team at CSA sat down to discuss the signals and drivers impacting the future of civil society. We believe that by looking deeply into the future, we will be able to reduce risks and embrace opportunities with more confidence and enthusiasm.

If you want to shape your future, you need to study your present.

At CSA, we studied the various "Signals" produced by Covid-19. A signal of change is anything that is already happening today. That could be a clue to the future. We analysed these signals to identify at least seven key Drivers that will play an important role in shaping the future of CSO work in India.

The 7 Drivers of Change

Drivers are the forces of change that move us towards a particular future. Behind every signal there is at least one driver. Please find below a poster that explains the "Seven top most drivers" identified by our CSA team for India.

© Civil Society Academy

Shattered Dreams

With empty pockets and shattered dreams, many people are currently leaving the cities to return to their home town. This illustrates the disturbing levels of vulnerability of hundreds of million Indians, who grow up with higher expectations and better education, but remain at the mercy of others.

Equipped with new skills and experiences, many returnees choose to remain in the village after Covid-19. They begin to embrace emerging opportunities in the rural area and are more connected than ever through digital services.

Total Traceability

End to end traceability of goods is changing the way we consume. Tomato or Tshirt: We know who produced it, how much they earn, and what quality standards are followed.

For everything and always. However, total traceability has a dark side. States and companies are using cameras, face recognition, apps, and artificial intelligence to trace and often control citizens. China is leading here, but 1984 is looming over India too.

Covid-19 has accelerated these trends. For the good, or against the bad, amplifying citizen voices and promoting alternative approaches may prove critical to remain on a democratic and rights-based trajectory.

Strong 'I'-dentification

India’s young population is independent and self-reliant. They make their own decisions and are determined to pursue their personal goals and dreams. Through mobile internet and social media, they publicly express their “I” when and wherever they are. They hold strong viewpoints toward many aspects of life, from consumerism, LGBTQ, to climate change.

With this changing mindset and accelerated by Covid-19, a new era of young leaders is emerging ready to reshape social change in India.

Localized Economies

Urbanization is an overwhelming trend in India, but rural areas are progressing too, though often unnoticed. Many Indian villages are now connected to the internet, have gas, electricity, piped water, and TV. Better roads mean that nearby cities are mostly within a reach of less than 2 hours. Covid-19 accelerates the connectivity between such rural towns and villages like never before.

Increasingly, goods and services are sourced locally, event through digital platforms. More investments and new enterprises, developed by returnees from the cities, may well see “Ruralization” a likely development in India.

Virtual Civil Society

Hyper-connectivity provides radically new opportunities for the “voiceless” to learn, to connect and to influence democracies in the global south.

Covid-19 currently accelerates this driver. In the 2020s, the movers and shakers are lean organizations with sound social values, a large outreach, and great virtual platforms. They use participatory media and artificial intelligence to engage citizens that are hungry for change.

The Oxfams and World Visions better watch out: just like Amazon in retail, tech-driven social organisations and businesses may become the rising stars in Civil Society.

Toxic Narrative

Populism, hate speech, fake news, conspiracy theories, social bots and echo chambers, now everyday language, instrumentalize and amplify toxic narratives. This can cost lives in the real world, for instance for Indian Muslims.

The battle for narratives is taking over more and more space, and nobody really has the option to disengage anymore, particularly not civil society.

Covid-19 pushes the boundaries further! Who controls the narrative?

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Simply paying everyone regularly a decent amount of money is a revolution in the way we define social welfare and can lead the way towards a new level in human development. This powerful idea is quickly gaining political momentum in India.

Covid-19 will push it further. By replacing myriads of costly and messy welfare schemes with a lean and radically transparent UBI, hunger and poverty could become a problem of the past. UBI will create heated controversies and may have profound impacts on the way many CSOs work.

Do the drivers speak to you? Which ones so you see in your country? Is there any other key driver that comes to your mind? Please share in the comments below.

We would love to hear what you think!

Poster 7 Drivers of Change: Click to download PDF



At Civil Society Academy we champion in designing and facilitating innovation processes following Design Thinking Principles. We have supported more than hundred social innovators through our "Innovation camps" who have developed path breaking innovations that successfully solved some of the social puzzles. We have now added new tools to make our innovation processes "future ready" in order to deliver solutions that are not only "Plausible" but are also "Preferred" in line with our mandate to promote "Social Justice" . We have the power to shape our future and lets use this "Power" with "Creativity" to create a better and just world.

In line with this our Next Innovation Camp comes up with the challenge " Accelerated by Covid 19, How civil society may change in the 2020? and how might we embrace emerging opportunities for a better world?"

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