If you haven’t seen it yet you might as well have been living on Mars. Social medias are currently flooded with videos of people pouring buckets of ice water on their head. The deal is this: it all starts with someone being challenged to either give money to the ALS Association or to pour a big bucket of ice water on their head (a lot of participants end up doing both). Once you have poured water on your head you have the right to challenge three other people. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects approximately 3 000 Canadians and 30 000 Americans per year.

The challenge gained momentum when celebrities, athletes, CEOs, and TV hosts started nominating each other. So far this year the challenge raised over 41.8 million (and counting) compared to 2.1 million dollars during the same period last year (July 29 to August 21).

This campaign’s strategy is unique and has allowed it to spread farther and faster than most traditional charitable campaigns. It may seem all fun and happy but the ice bucket challenge has received its fair amount of criticism.

What are the main critiques?

The main critique surrounding the campaign calls into question the motivation to participate in the challenge. Noted as egotistic, this campaign puts more focus on the person who pours ice over their head than on the actual disease.

A second and more subtle critique concerns the campaign’s effect on our social media culture. By rewarding a minor act of altruism with a lot of attention, the ice bucket challenge trivializes a very serious disease and runs the risk of producing very little or no concrete action. Let’s face it, a lot of the people who made a video didn’t actually donate any money.

A third and very important critique is that the challenge raises little or no awareness about the disease. After having watched many videos of people taking the challenge I didn’t know more about ALS. In fact, I didn’t even know that “ALS” was the short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. I doubt many of the participants knew either.

What do I think?

I personally believe that we need to learn about the shift that occurred. By shift, I mean the shift from the traditional fundraising and awareness campaign to a viral social media movement (a campaign that auto promotes itself). This movement definitely sets a precedent for ALS or any other fundraising campaign.

I believe that the ice bucket challenge is the first of many such movements. What I would like to see is a movement that educates and involves people in a more meaningful way. Donating a quick buck isn’t going to change the world, but deeper involvement and education will.

The ALS campaign is raising a lot of attention and money but I like to think that the ice bucket challenge is the beta version of “movement management”. Traditional fundraising campaigns are here to stay but “movement management” should definitely be a new offering.

To learn more about where it all started, take a look at this touching video made by ESPN.

To learn more about the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in simple and understandable terms.

And of course, to donate to the cause (ALS society of Quebec).