What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for the voluntary and community sector?

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is sweeping the world with rapid advances in technologies which will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another.

How will this affect jobs, society and the future of voluntary and community organisations? The voluntary and community sector has an important role in this revolution. It has the experience and understanding of the need and priorities of communities and areas where technology has a role to play in finding solutions. 

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The fourth industrial revolution can be seen in the context of the three industrial revolutions that preceded it. From the rise of mechanization replacing manual labour in the late 18th century, to the shift towards mass production and manufacturing in the mid 19th century, the digital revolution, rise of technology and globalisation that started in the late 20th century/ early 21st century to the current era of automation, analytics and the 'internet of things'. Professor Klaus Schwabb of the World Economic Forum characterizes the Fourth Industrial Revolution as “a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economics and industries and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” This is something that will become, and already is changing society and how we address social challenges in a fundamental way.

It is essential that the voluntary and community sector is part of this revolution. There is currently limited data on how civil society strategically invests and uses technology to address social challenges, but there is huge scope to better use the available digital technology in the sector to meet the needs of the communities that the sector supports. The sector needs to make the move from being tech users, to embedding digital technology in the work that they do and ensuring that an approach to social innovation is inclusive and partcipatory.

Some of the case studies of voluntary and community organisations using tech to address social challlenges can be seen in the attached powerpoint presentation and include:

Mencap who have developed a bespoke virtual reality tool that replicates a real environment so as individuals who have difficulties with everyday activities can experience a particular scenario before taking part in it.

Core Systems NI who specialize in interactive offender technology solutions. Our solutions assist offenders in custody, on probation and serving community sentences to take an active role in transitioning back into the community successfully.

Kippie CIC who uses digital game development to encourage discussion and delivers tailor made workshops that teach people how to create computer games that explore social issues.


Further Reading:


Jamie Bartlett- The People vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and how We Save It) 

Jon Barnes- Democracy Squared








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