The main aim of many social innovators is to change the world, even though many are having a hard time scaling their promising idea and achieving lasting impact. This refers to their idea reaching a large percentage of their target audience and their product or service having a positive and transformative effect or preventing a negative effect on even the poorest parts of society.  

The true skill of a social innovation startup lies not just in choosing the right idea, but in finding, using and working with the right partners, aligning with priorities and funding, and continuously delivering and communicating impact along the way.i  

In this article we will introduce eight remarkable projects relating to social innovations that went viral.


Earth Hour Day 

On a day at the end of March every year, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in people’s local time, the earth turns dark for just one hour. This is to mark Earth Hour, which is a campaign that asks people and companies around the world to turn off all their non-essential electric lights at the same time as a symbol of support for actions to tackle climate change. However, taking part isn’t just about saving electricity during that hour – it is symbolic of being careful with what we use. Loads of important buildings around the world take part in the event, including Big Ben, Harrods and the Gherkin in London, the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and the Bangkok Grand Palace. Earth Hour is organised by the World Wildlife Fund and members of the public are also encouraged to take part in their homes.ii   

Read more about the project here. 


Poverty is Sexist 

‘ONE, co-founded by Bono of U2, is an international advocacy organisation of more than seven million members taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.’iii  

‘In recent years, ONE’s members have played an important role in persuading governments to support effective programs and policies that are making a measurable difference in fighting extreme poverty and disease. Women and girls around the world are impoverished at disproportionate rates for a variety of reasons. Girls may be forced into marriage at an early age and prevented from attending school, for example, or they may be prevented from owning the land they maintain because of their gender.’iii 

‘In 2015, ONE launched its “Poverty is Sexist” campaign to spread these messages—and curated social content played a key role in the campaign. ONE asked people around the world to post a #Strengthie of themselves posing like Rosie the Riveter. They also asked participants to tag the women in their life whose strength they admire and use hashtag #WithStrongGirls.’iii 

‘Stackla provided the technology that allowed ONE to aggregate all the posts using its hashtags. A curated stream of these photos was displayed in a social hub on ONE’s website. The organization has aggregated more than 5,700 photos since the start of the campaign—including posts from celebrity supporters Malala Yousafzai, Shonda Rhimes, and Mary J. Blige.’iii  

Read more about the project here 



It started with a bottle of water that exists to help end the World Water Crisis. That idea has now grown to over 55 products, from personal care products to nappies and baby care.
Thankyou is a social enterprise that commits 100% of their profit to end global poverty. They can be found in over 5,500 outlets in Australia, including all major supermarkets. ‘The Thankyou consumer movement has raised millions of dollars to get safe water, toilets and child and maternal health programs to hundreds and thousands of people in need.’iv 

How did it start? For 5 years, the major supermarkets in Australia had said no to Thankyou. Then one day they launched a video and thousands of people began petitioning the supermarkets. Two helicopter pilots donated their time to fly signs above the head offices of those two supermarkets and in record-breaking time, both said yes. Products hit the shelves, including their hand wash that has since become number one in the category.iv   

You can find out more about the project here.



Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with reading difficulties who find it problematic or impossible to read printed text. This includes the visually impaired and those with dyslexia or a language-based learning disability. More than 425,000 people in 70 countries have access to Bookshare’s collection of 637,064 titles.  

More than 820 U.S. and international publishers contribute to their social mission by donating their digital files, making it possible for Bookshare to serve users around the world and ensure that content is available to people with reading difficulties at the same time as their peers.v  

You can find out more about the project here.


Invisible Children (Kony 2012) 

Invisible Children have helped thousands of central African families become safer through innovative community-based protection initiatives.  

‘They got their start by showing a short film called “The Rough Cut” at high schools and community centers around the United States.’vi 

‘The goal was to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, a war criminal responsible for a decades-long civil war in Uganda and surrounding countries, and most maligned for his kidnapping and use of children as sex slaves and soldiers.’vi 

‘The group flipped Kony 2012, a 30-minute YouTube video, to public on March 5, 2012. It was not their first or their last video but it was their loudest. In six days, it garnered more than 100 million views becoming (for the moment) the fastest growing viral video of all time.’vi  

You can find out more about the project here 



#GivingTuesday was founded in 2012 by a team at New York City’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation. Together with a team of influencers and founding partners, they launched a global movement that has engaged thousands of organisations worldwide. 

‘#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.’vii 

As a global movement, #GivingTuesday unites countries around the world by sharing their capacity to care for and empower one another.vii  

You can find out more about the project here 


Wings for Life World Run 

‘Wings for Life is an international not-for-profit foundation with one mission only – to help scientists find a cure for spinal cord injury. 100% of your entry fee and donations go directly to cutting-edge research projects worldwide.’viii 

The Wings for Life World Run is a global running event where everybody starts simultaneously and the finish line chases them. 

How does it work? The charity explains: ‘On one day each year, the Wings for Life World Run takes place at event locations across the planet. Everybody starts at exactly the same moment, 11 am UTC. Whether it’s day or night, bright sun or pouring rain at your location – you’re running together with the world and sharing an amazing experience. Your name shows up on a Global Result List, too!’viii 

In excess of half a million people have participated in the Wings for Life World Run over the past 5 years.viii  

You can find out more about the project here.



‘The Movember Foundation is the only global charity focused solely on men’s health. The Foundation raises funds to deliver innovative, breakthrough research and support programs that enable men to live happier, healthier, and longer lives. Awareness and fundraising activities are run year-round by the Foundation, with the annual Movember campaign being globally recognized for its fun, disruptive approach to fundraising and getting men to take action for their health.’ix 

‘During Movember, men are challenged to grow a moustache, and men and women can be physically active and move or host a fundraising event. Not only do these commitments raise vital funds, they also generate powerful and often life-changing conversations.’ix  

‘Millions have joined the movement to disrupt the status quo, raising $769M and funding over 1,200 projects focused on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.’ix  

You can find out more about the project here 


Learn more at Social Innovation Academy

We4You together with 4 other partners has recently started a project aiming to develop 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 is increasingly being 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 will aim 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 (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here. 


i    Kochi E. (2013, February 16). How Do You Scale Social Innovation Startups?(Article).Retrieved from: https://techcrunch.com/2013/02/16/scaling-social-innovation-erica-kochi/
ii   Willis A., Mills J. (2017, March 17). Earth Hour Day: When is it and what is it all about? (Article).Retrieved from: https://metro.co.uk/2017/03/17/earth-hour-day-when-is-it-and-what-is-it-all-about-6516659/
iv  Thankyou. Our Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://thankyou.co/about 
v   Bookshare. Who we are. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.bookshare.org/cms/about 
vi  Help! My Brand Went Viral: 12 Small Brands That Made It Big. (n .d.). Retrieved from: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/12-small-brands-that-went-viral 
vii  #GivingTuesday. About. (n. d.). Retrieved from: https://www.givingtuesday.org/about 
viii Wings for Life World Run. About. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/si/en/about/about/ 
ix   Prostate Cancer Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.pcf.org/c/movember/ 
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.

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