the New Social Contract project

Through the New Social Contract project, CIVICUS seeks to find new ways of partnerships, engagements and commitments around collective goals for society. New Social Contract will input on the discussions around participative governance and how to reconsider the rules that govern how citizens engage in the decisions that affect their lives.

Through local, multi-level and virtual activities and consultations New Social Contract will gather compelling examples of collaborations, commitments and action strategies taking place between diverse stakeholders around the world, including government, business, scientific community and the civic sector, across a broad range of issues.

One method to do so will be the co-organisation with convening partners of locally initiated multi-stakeholder dialogues, following a methodology developed by CIVICUS. The local partners will be selected through a call for expressions of interest, based on the relevance of the proposed challenge, their willingness to address it and their motivations, reasons and interest to establish a local multi-stakeholder platform.

For the purpose of this project, a multi-stakeholder dialogue aims to bring together relevant actors who have a 'stake' in a given issue or decision, in order to address a common challenge (social, economic, environmental, or others) that couldn't be properly tackled without the other actors. A multi-stakeholder process assumes that all the involved stakeholders are somehow affected by the challenge and have relevant experience, knowledge and information that will positively contribute to the decision-making process as well as any actions that (may) result. This is particularly useful when:

  • there is a need for a shared vision to guide collaboration efforts around a common challenge/goal;
  • there is a lack of a shared understanding amongst stakeholders about the solution to the common challenge;
  • A more formal and methodologically sound approach can help attract stakeholders that might not otherwise become engaged in a process.

Based on the case studies collected during Phase 1 of the New Social Contract Project, CIVICUS has developed a three-phased approach that will be used during Phase 2 of the Project. The lessons learned through the pilot implementation of this approach will inform a toolkit on multi-stakeholder engagement to be produced and disseminated at the end of the project.

New Social Contract project Phases

The first phase of New Social Contract ended in June 2013. 5 multi-stakeholder local or regional dialogues were conducted in Cape Verde, Ecuador, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.



CIVICUS has a vision of a global community of active, engaged citizens committed to the creation of a more just and equitable world. This is based on the belief that the health of societies exists in direct proportion to the degree of balance between the state, the private sector and civil society.

CIVICUS is carrying out the action-based research project - New Social Contract - in an attempt to understand better this balance of power between those 3 actors, their relationships and interactions. Amidst the current long-going governance, economic, social and environmental crisis, their roles and responsibilities within society are indeed shifting at the national, global and local levels.

We indeed live at a time of great contradictions: there are deepening economic inequalities and unprecedented wealth; an environmental crisis and increasing understanding of the reasons and range of effective responses; a growing political inertia and an explosion in communications. Empowered citizens play an important role in creating healthy societies, and yet there are many examples of increasingly restrictive legal environments that limit citizen action.

All this suggests that we can do much better at addressing opportunities and issues through improved dialogue, exchange and co-construction amongst all actors. Societies need to adopt new systemic approaches fostering innovative, cross-sector, decision-making and action strategies. To further this belief, New Social Contract will seek to:

  • stimulate the co-creation of new frameworks to reshape roles and responsibilities of public, private and civic sectors in a more aware and intentional way;
  • share new patterns of civic engagement addressing common challenges that could ultimately pave the way to new social contracts.

New Social Contract is part of the Civic Space Initiative, which aims to protect and expand civic space by fostering an enabling legal environment for civil society organisations around the world. The project is implemented in partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), Article 19, and the World Movement for Democracy, with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

For previous work on the new social contact theme, check our 2012 World Assembly page

For more information, contact:



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South Africa,
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

CIVICUS, c/o We Work
450 Lexington Ave
New York
NY 10017
United States

11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41.79.910.34.28