• Thomas Coombes

Five hope-based videos that will give you goosebumps.

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

I never have time to show all the videos I want to during my talks and workshops, so here are some of my favourite videos that give you goosebumps but also make you think differently.


1. Unstoppable | Planned Parenthood

How you feel is political. We cannot generate lasting passion and enthusiasm that pressures leaders purely through outrage and disgust: we must celebrate what we stand for. Joyful, inspiring content like Planned Parenthood’s Unstoppable campaign serves not just to inspire, it creates political momentum.


This video is pure values. You don’t see policy, you don’t see political opponents. You see endless images of unity, bringing to life Hilary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” message in a way her campaign struggled to. Other NGOs should learn from this video that how they make their supporters feel is as important as what they make them think. We take images of holding hands and hugging for granted, but maybe we need to use them more strategically and systematically.


2. Marriage Equality: Bring Your Family With You

People who change their minds and decide to help are also heroes, as in this powerful for add for marriage equality in Ireland where the heroes are traditional parents supporting their children.


My country of birth Ireland has undergone massive social changes in my lifetime, and campaigns like this are one reason why. One of the most important things I have learned about social change comes from the HeartWired team of Amy Simon and Robert Perez: if you want to change someone’s mind, show them someone like them changing their mind. This is a beautiful video that shows how we can target neutral audiences and offer them a role in making social change happen. There are stories in this video that anyone can relate to, touching on friendship, community and core family relationships. Just look at the messaging at the end: belong, we can change, bring your family.


3. Amnesty International France: Thirst for victory

People want to be part of something successful. Amnesty International France are running a “Thrill of Victory” campaign to associate the words “Human Rights” with “victory” instead of “problem” or “violation”. This video, splicing real with acted footage, is based on the insight that people want to be part of something successful. But audience research consistently shows that people see human rights as heavy, political, radical and dangerous. This video seeks to make the movement more appealing and welcoming. Human rights work is obviously not just about joy, but we need to be able to offer the promise of joy as an eventual reward for getting involved.


4. Civil society – It Works!

We talk a lot about shrinking space for civil society, but if our stories are always filled with despair and failure, what else will people ever think about civil society? Lost in our narratives of NGOs confronting governments is the story of civil society as the glue that binds communities together. Instead of the language of war, we should use the language of building, journeys and even gardening – finding new metaphors to describe how civil society works. This simple, charming campaign in Poland offers a surprising twist on stereotypes about activists: with a relaxed, off-beat tone it offers the image of civil society as a cycle-taxi – helping people get along in life.


5. TV2 – All that we share

This is the follow-up to the original viral hit that adapted a psychological experiment to show how much seemingly different groups of people have in common. This version, however, hides a hugely emotional climax that makes me tear up every time for personal reasons. Watch it to the end.


Similar campaigns based on a message of shared humanity were run by a Danish travel agency and a certain Dutch beer company. NGOs should explore more authentic versions of these stories. For example, Amnesty International Poland’s Look Beyond Borders video showing positive social contact between Europeans and people seeking refuge was a huge social media success.