The India–Brazil–South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum was launched in June 2003 to push for these countries' bids for a place on the United Nation' Security Council, but IBSA's attention has shifted over time towards development and economic reform. This article discusses the progress in addressing social development challenges within the member countries of IBSA. It examines the social achievements of IBSA members, in the context of their economic performance and the Millennium Development Goals. It also assesses the forces which propel these societies' social policies, especially the influence of civil society, and whether there has been benefit in this regard in their collaboration within the IBSA forum. Their experiences show the critical importance of civil society in design and execution of programmes directed towards the poor, an important factor to be kept in mind by multilateral and bilateral agencies involved in poverty alleviation projects in developing countries. The three nations could cooperate to share ideas for effective social welfare programmes, and join together in multilateral forums to form a powerful voice for change.