These days the voices of dissent are increasingly being carried via the evolving medium of the Internet. From World Cancer Day, Think Before You Pink and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to many other movements, social activists wield the power of the Internet to pressure powerful organisations.

Online activism enables activists to organise events with high levels of engagement, focus and network strength. On the one hand, researchers suggest that the anonymity afforded by online communication provides the possibility of expressing the views of marginalised minority groups that might otherwise be punished or sanctioned. Online activities reinforce collective identity by reducing attention to differences that exist within the group (such as education, social class and ethnicity).[i]

Social activism refers to a broad range of activities which are beneficial to society or particular interest groups. Social activists operate in groups to voice, educate and agitate for change, targeting global crises.i

In this article we will introduce eight social innovation movements that went viral.



World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control, the largest and oldest international cancer organisation dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.ii

World Cancer Day was instigated on 4 February 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris. The Paris Charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.[ii]

Read more about the project here.


Think Before You Pink

Think Before You Pink®, a project by Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the number of pink ribbon products on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.iii

Breast Cancer Action’s mission is to achieve health justice for all women at risk of and living with breast cancer.

More than 30 years after the launch of the breast cancer awareness movement and the introduction of the pink ribbon, breast cancer remains a public health crisis and a social justice issue. However, the mainstream breast cancer movement remains squarely focused on pink ribbons, ‘awareness’ campaigns and mammography screening. This focus fails to address the systemic issues at the heart of this epidemic, instead emphasising individual risk and individual solutions.[iii]

Read more about the project here.


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a wonderful testament to the power of social media to make a charitable impact for an important cause. Since 2014, largely due to social media, the ALS Association has raised more than $115 million for research towards Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It drew the attention of hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities like President Obama, LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, and Bill Gates. Within the first 15 days of the campaign taking off, the ALS Association had received $15 million in donations from 307,600 new, first-time donors.[iv]

Read more about the project here.


Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organisation whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.[v]

Black Lives Matter has become one of the largest social movements in social media history. Used more than 12 million times, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is the third most used Twitter hashtag around a social cause.iii

Read more about the project here.



HeForShe is an invitation to men and people of all genders to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible and united force for gender equality. The men of HeForShe aren’t on the sidelines. They’re working with women and with each other to build businesses, raise families, and give back to their communities.[vi]

Read more about the project here.


Stop funding Hate

This UK grass-roots activism campaign began to take action against the anti-migrant position of many British newspapers. Since its inception just over a year ago, it’s gone viral several times over — and won some big victories in the process.

In 2016 Lego pulled its promotional giveaways from the Daily Mail. Several months later, The Body Shop joined the fray as it cut ties with the paper over human rights concerns. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has approached Walkers about their partnership with The Sun, too — after they attacked the football pundit’s positive stance towards refugees.

Every tweet is a stand — a protest to power about what world you want to live in.[vii]

Read more about the project here.



350.org was founded in 2008 by a group of university friends in the United States along with author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public, with the goal of building a global climate movement. 350 was named after 350 parts per million – the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Their first actions were global days of action that linked activists and organisations around the world, including the International Day of Climate Action in 2009, the Global Work Party in 2010 and Moving Planet in 2011. 350 quickly became a planet-wide collaboration of organisers, community groups and regular people fighting for the future.

Today 350 works on grass-roots campaigns across the globe: from opposing coal plants and mega-pipelines, to building renewable energy solutions and cutting the financial ties of the fossil fuel industry. All of their work leverages people power to dismantle the influence and infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry.[viii]

Read more about the project here.



SeeClickFix is an initiative that allows anyone to use the Internet to report a non-emergency neighbourhood problem—all revolve around navigating or fixing the decaying urban infrastructure.

SeeClickFix has helped millions of citizens, and hundreds of partner towns, build stronger communities for more than ten years. Their smooth web and mobile app services help people and governments build more transparent, collaborative, and happy communities.[ix]

They have written about the project in a number of prominent newspapers and magazines and for other media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

Read more about the project here.


To tackle this issue, Limitless and We4You, together with 3 other partners, have recently started a project aimed at developing the first online Social Innovation Academy in Europe. The Social Innovation Academy will be the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.

Why Social Innovation Academy? Social innovation has increasingly come to be perceived as the answer to the rising number of European societal challenges. While the European authorities, leading academics, policy experts, business people and activists agree that social innovation is the key to a better future for Europe and the world, it is extremely difficult for professionals to obtain high-quality training on what social innovation actually offers and, more importantly, how it can be done in practice.

The Social Innovation Academy is aiming to change this situation in Europe and beyond. If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.



The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

[i] Going viral: what social media activists need to know. (2018, July 17). Retrieved from: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/viral-social-media-activists-need-know/


[ii] World Cancer Day. 4 February. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved from https://www.worldcancerday.org/our-story


[iii] Think Before You Pink. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from http://www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org/about-us/


[iv] Peters, B. (2017, June 30). Top 10 powerful moments that shaped social media history over the last 20 years (Blog). Retrieved from https://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-history


[v] Black Lives Matter. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/


[vi] HeForShe. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.heforshe.org/movement


[vii] Hitchings-Hales, J. and Calderwood, I. (2017, Avgust 23). 8 Massive Moments Hashtag Activism Really, Really Worked (Article). Retrieved from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hashtag-activism-hashtag10-twitter-trends-dresslik/


[viii] 350. (n.d.). About 350. Retrieved from https://350.org/about/


[ix] SeeClickFix. (n.d.). Strong Communities, More Efficient Government. Retrieved from https://seeclickfix.com/


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