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September 04, 2015

Opinion: Hail 'Slacktivism' -- It Worked in ALS Fight

The ice-bucket challenge, derided by some observers at its height last summer as emblematic of social-media "slacktivism," is significantly moving the needle in the search for treatments for the neurodegenerative disease ALS, writes Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times.  

Mr. Kristof recalls criticism that the viral stunt — in which millions of people (himself included) posted videos of themselves being doused with icy water as a fundraising challenge for the ALS Association — was a symbolic gesture that "cannibalized contributions to better causes that affect more people."

"But now we have evidence that the ice-bucket challenge may have worked," he continues, citing research breakthroughs on potential ALS therapies funded from the $115 million the campaign raised for the association.

While he acknowledges that some online awareness campaigns have done little for their causes, "armchair activism is preferable to armchair passivity," Mr. Kristof writes. "With the ice-bucket challenge, there’s little evidence of cannibalization that hurt other causes, and it seems to have been revolutionary for this one."

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy article on whether awareness campaigns are effective.