Towards New Social Contracts: using dialogue processes to promote social change


At CIVICUS, we believe that society will achieve large-scale progress in solving the complex challenges of our time only if a collective, citizen-powered approach is utilised.

However, overall acceptance of this idea seems to remain patchy. Throughout CIVICUS ’ ‘New Social Contract’ action-research project, we have observed that indeed, civil society is still sceptical of experimenting in hybrid business models with the private sector, cynical of partnering with some elements of government in shaping new development narratives, does not see much value in joining forces with the scientific community in addressing social challenges and is often unable to engage the general public more widely. Such reluctance is often reciprocated, as demonstrated by a lack of commitment from the private sector and weak ownership from government. We think that at the heart of this resistance lies a rigid sector-based view of how development challenges can be solved and by whom.

In order to achieve real change, societies need to try new terms of engagement using a more flexible framework, one that emphasises the central role of citizen power in driving transformative processes.

This toolkit is designed to stimulate a reflection around the potential and limits of multi-stakeholder processes in promoting socio-political change, and provides practical tools and resources to facilitate the use of dialogue processes in new ways.

What’s in the tool

This toolkit is primarily intended for civil society, particularly small organisations operating at local level, and seeks to add a civil society perspective to multi-stakeholder initiatives.


Motivates for the need to find new ways of working to affect socio-political change, and highlights the opportunities and challenges of doing so.

Part 2: GET SET!

Provides methodological guidance on how to set up a multi-stakeholder dialogue process. It is not meant to be a step-by-step guide but rather a presentation of reflections, tips, tools and lessons learned that will need to be adapted to each context.

Part 3: GO!

Provides methodological and practical guidance on how to run the dialogue in a participatory and inclusive manner.


Compiles a useful list of resources for further reflection as well as essential tools for action.


You can download the toolkit in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic