Many a video campaign has relied on a celebrity narrating a heartfelt story over footage of a heartbreaking scene. (Think Sally Struthers asking you to sponsor a child in Africa.) But precious few change agents can get that kind of star power behind their cause. And if today’s top social change videos are any indication, that may have gone out of style anyway.

What seems to matter most these days is a genuinely good story or idea. If a video is to go viral, it must resonate with a broad audience. If it does, then basic math kicks in, the multiplication happens, and the message spreads exponentially across the globe — all because it struck a chord in such a powerful way that viewers just had to share it. Today, with the help of accessible video tools and social media, anyone with a powerful story or idea can reach the masses. This gives even smallest of causes a shot at a mainstream audience.

Here are 10 of my favorite YouTube videos creating social change.

1. The Story of Stuff Series

Annie Leonard launched the surprise viral hit “The Story of Stuff” back in 2007. It’s amazing that a 20 minute  educational video about the destructive materials economy caught on like wildfire (and help inspire Shareable). It has since spawned numerous follow-on videos about bottled water, cosmetics, cap and trade, and so on. The most recent entry, “The Story of Solutions,” talks about the need for systemic social change, and what that actually looks like. Watch the whole series to get inspired about things you can do to change your life and world.

2. A Pep Talk from Kid President

With nearly 30 million views on his original “Pep Talk,” Kid President has taken the world by storm with a simple request, “Create something that will make the world awesome.” He’s also big on team work and dancing.

3. I Forgot My Phone

Has our addiction to digital connectivity caused us to disconnect from our daily lives? That’s the question posed in this video which has, so far, resonated with more than 25 million viewers.

4. Abercrombie & Fitch Get a Brand Readjustment

After the head of Abercrombie & Fitch made some derogatory comments about who should and shouldn’t wear his clothing, one guy decided the #FitchTheHomeless by giving all of his A&F clothes to people living on the street. That’s how a movement was born.

5. The Science of Happiness Series

Soul Pancake, the team behind Kid President, have a second entry to be proud of with “The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude.” It’s such a simple idea, gratitude, but a very powerful one that changes the lives of both the giver and receiver. This is the piece that started a whole series. A similar notion is tested in Soul Pancake’s “Street Compliments” video.

6. It Gets Better

The original “It Gets Better” video posted by Dan Savage and Terry Miller sparked a viral revolution that led to more than 50,000 video submissions and 50 million collective views. More importantly, the Trevor Project’s suicide prevention hotline saw a 50 percent increase in phone calls which means that countless lives have been saved.

7. Take a Seat – Make a Friend?

A third pick from the good folks at Soul Pancake showcases interactions between strangers who take a seat in a ball pit and proceed to share stories from their lives prompted by questions written on the balls. Old and young, black and white, gay and straight… the walls quickly vanish as they search for a commonality between them.

8. The Scarecrow

“The Scarecrow” is really just a gussied up commercial for Chipotle, and a beautifully rendered one at that. However, the message about factory farming is powerfully conveyed. Yes, Chipotle is a fast food joint and, no, they aren’t perfect; but they are making strides to humanize their supply chain.

9. Girls Going Wild

Capturing a real-world campaign on film gave this project a one-two punch, as it were. Watch to the end to get the message and see responses from onlookers.

10. First World Problems

What can seem like a big problem in the so called “first world’  doesn’t even come close to the day-to-day challenges faced by the billions who live in extreme poverty. This video highlights the stark contrast in very simple terms.

Kelly McCartney


Kelly McCartney |

Having won prestigious literary competitions in both grade school and junior high, I attended college with a Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship, earned a BA in Journalism, and interned at Entertainment

Things I share: I seek. I write. I think. I roam. I listen. I care. I wonder. I help. I flirt. I try. I dream. I grow.