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1972-2022: 50 years of good news

Words by Smiley Team

In 1971, France-Soir newspaper journalist, Franklin Loufrani, needed a pick-me-up. 

Fed up with the tense climate fueled by relentlessly negative headlines connected to social unrest and political turmoil, he decided to pitch his own idea to his editor: a new section featuring good news. 

Franklin knocked on the publisher’s door and told the France-Soir leadership team that the bleak media-sphere was in dire need of medicine. Warming to his argument, Loufrani, with his hand-drawn, yellow smiley, ultimately persuaded his editor to sign on to his idea. 

And on the first of January, 1972, a new column with the words “Prenez le Temps de Sourire” – take the time to smile – was born.

[Read Smiley News on our Smiley Movement website]

“Good news is not simply about putting a smile on people’s faces,” says Franklin Loufrani, “it also reminds us that sometimes the world isn’t as bad as it seems.”

In 2019, The Smiley Company launched Smiley Movement in 2019: a reimagined good-news venture shines a light on change-makers: people working to improve communities through charity work and social entrepreneurialism. 

“Their stories inspire optimism because they reveal a more positive path forward,” says Franklin. “Ultimately, good news is good people doing good. These are the advances that have helped make the world a better place. By sharing them with you, we hope to motivate you to make positive changes in your own life and help create the world we all want to live in.”

The 50 years of good news book highlights positive news stories since the Smiley face was born. If you're in need of a boost of optimism, here are good news stories that really stood out over the past 50 years. 


1972: Ocean Conservancy Is Founded 

The Ocean Conservancy works to promote a healthy oceanic ecosystem through advocating for policy implementation, confronting climate threats, protecting endangered habitats from the Arctic to Florida, and cleaning up the trash that pollutes waterways and harms wildlife. One of the earliest accomplishments was to establish the Whale Protection Fund, which protected the species from commercial whaling and in 1982 saw a victory when the International Whaling Commission finally banned the practice. 

1973: The World’s First Timebank 

First started in Japan by Teruko Mizushima, a timebank allows participants to barter their time and labor. Work for a certain number of hours helping others, and instead of money, you’ll build up time credits in your account that others will use to help you. 

1976: Grameen Bank Spearheads Microcredits 

Community-based banking initiatives underline the effects of organized people power. When Grameen Bank first began making small loans known as microcredits to an impoverished region of Bangladesh without requiring collateral, this became a force for change in rural communities, by empowering women to help manage investments and make a real impact for their families. Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and by 2015, the bank’s total borrowers numbered 8.8 million, 97 percent of whom were women.

1976: Habitat for Humanity Is Founded 

Habitat for Humanity believes that every person is deserving of a decent, affordable, safe place to live. To achieve this vision, the nonprofit organization works in local communities in over seventy countries around the world and in all fifty U.S. states to build and improve homes with the help of volunteers. To date, Habitat for Humanity has helped over 35 million people build, rehabilitate or preserve homes since it was founded in 1976.

1976: Portugal Becomes First Country to Abolish Death Penalty Completely 

When Portugal adopted its new constitution in 1976, it became the first country in the world to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Denmark soon followed suit with the same ruling in 1978. Then came Luxembourg, Nicaragua and Norway in 1979. Since Portugal’s bold modern move, more than seventyfive nations have completely eradicated the death penalty, while many others have abolished it for ordinary crimes. 

1978: The Great Green Wall of China 

The Great Green Wall is China’s plan to help combat deforestation, designed to counteract an ever-expanding Gobi Desert by planting some 88 million acres of forest. With a wall stretching about 3,000 miles across northern China, the project is set to continue until 2050, when 100 billion trees will have been planted and one-tenth of the country dedicated toward tree growth.

1978: U.S. Supreme Court Rules Affirmative Action Is Constitutional 

In 1978, a groundbreaking case about racial discrimination in higher education called Regents of University of California vs. Bakke was tried before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case found that universities were not allowed to implement racial quotas in the admissions process, meaning no applicant could be excluded from consideration because of race.

1979: ​​George Soros Establishes Philanthropic Open Society Foundations 

As one of the world’s leading philanthropists, George Soros has given away over $32 billion of his personal wealth since establishing the Open Society Foundations in 1979. The society includes over 120 national and local foundations that work to support individuals and groups fighting for justice, equality, accountable governments, freedom of expression and more.


1980: Smallpox Is Eradicated 

In announcing one of the greatest achievements in public health worldwide, the World Health Organization declared in 1980 that smallpox had been completely eradicated, three thousand years after it was discovered. The disease was stamped out thanks to the important work of vaccines and a global campaign.

1980: World’s First Female President Is Elected in Iceland 

Iceland became the first country in the world to elect a female president when Vigdís Finnbogadóttir won the election against three men in 1980. But while Finnbogadóttir was elected as the globe’s first female president, she wasn’t the world’s first female leader—in 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Sri Lanka’s first female prime minister when her political party won in a landslide election. Today, over seventy countries have had women elected or appointed as heads of state or government, a number that will only continue to climb.

1980: Triodos Bank Founded 

The Triodos Bank N.V. was founded with a mission of financing entrepreneurs who contribute to a fair and sustainable economy. Such organizations have amplified a sense of conscience in global business, inspiring others to put their money where their mouth is.

1982: Commercial Whale Hunting Is Banned Worldwide 

To protect whales after decades of extreme hunting and exploitation of the mammal for its meat, oil and blubber, the International Whaling Commission installed an indefinite moratorium on commercial whale hunting. The moratorium was put in place to protect the animal and prevent the species from going extinct.

1985: Live AID Concert Raises $127 Million in African Famine Relief 

To raise money to help fight famine in Ethiopia, music’s biggest stars, including Queen, Madonna, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, performed at a sixteen-hour concert that was broadcast around the world. Between simultaneous concerts in London and Philadelphia, organizers raised $127 million.

1985: Les Restos du Coeur Is Launched to Fight Hunger 

Founded by French comedian Coluche in 1985, Les Restos du Coeur is a charity organization that was launched to fight hunger and poverty by gathering food donations and serving free meals to anyone in need. Every year since its launch, the crème de la crème of French singers give their time and voices to put on free concerts and raise funds for charities. By banding together, their musical efforts have helped the organization serve over 1.5 billion meals and expand its mission beyond food insecurity to help those looking to re-enter society, find stable work and housing, receive school support and get access to legal advice.

1985: USA for Africa Records “We Are the World” for Charity 

To raise funds for the fight against famine and poverty in Ethiopia, musicians Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones organized a group of fellow global superstars to record a song for charity. With vocals from Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Tina Turner, among other musical legends, the song has raised over $60 million since its release in 1985.

1987: UNICEF Forms Change for Good

As one of UNICEF’s longest-running and most notable partnerships, Change for Good works with the international airline industry to collect leftover foreign currency and donations from travelers while on board to support children in need all over the world. The program has raised more than $170 million since it was founded in 1987, the funds of which are used to purchase the lifesaving materials and services necessary for children to grow up in safe and nurturing environments.

1986: Hands Across America Raises $15 Million to Fight Hunger 

In an effort to raise money to fight homelessness and hunger, participants formed a recordbreaking human chain that stretched from New York City all the way to California, as millions of people held hands for fifteen minutes.

1987: Aretha Franklin Becomes First Woman Elected to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, made history in 1987 when she became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, setting the stage for generations of female rockers to come.

1987: Montreal Protocol to Protect the Ozone Layer Is Enacted 

In an effort to safeguard the ozone layer and help it recover, the United Nations put together an international treaty to stop the production of ozone-depleting substances and phase out the chemicals causing its destruction. Adopted in 1987 and now signed by 198 countries, the Montreal Protocol is considered to be one of the most effective environmental global actions ever taken.

1987: Treatment for AIDS Is Discovered 

As the AIDS pandemic swept the globe in the 1980s, scientists worked hard to put an end to this mysterious immune disorder. In 1986, they discovered that AZT, an anti-cancer drug developed in 1964, could improve the survival rates of AIDS patients, and in 1987 the drug became the first one to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the disease.

1987: ​​Akhtar Hameed Khan Launches Microfinance Project 

The Orangi Pilot Project – Orangi Charitable Trust (OPP – OCT) was established in 1987 as an independent and autonomous institution in Orangi, a low-income settlement of over one million people. Spearheaded by Pakistani microfinance pioneer Akhtar Hameed Khan, the program aimed to empower communities to take an active participation in their own development by providing credit in urban and rural areas.

1988: Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Becomes First Woman Leader of a Muslim Nation 

Benazir Bhutto made history when she was elected prime minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman elected to lead a Muslim nation.

1988: Second Summer of Love Takes Place 

Inspired by the sounds of Ibiza nightlife, a new sound came to the clubs in London in the summer of 1988. Donning bandannas, baggy pants, Converse shoes and shirts with smiley faces galore, clubgoers ushered in the rise of acidhouse music and a new era of music production, creating a new energy among the crowds. This spirit of human connection found on the dance floor superseded years of street violence and hooliganism, bringing people together under the banner of “the Second Summer of Love.”

1989: The Berlin Wall Is Torn Down

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the first step toward reuniting East and West Germany. The barrier between East and West Berlin was torn down in 1989, lifting travel restrictions and reuniting family, friends and loved ones.


1990: Earth Day Goes Global

After decades of a successful campaign in the United States to raise awareness about the crucial environmental threats facing the planet, the Earth Day movement went global. On April 22, 1990, over 200 million people in 141 countries mobilized to push the modern environmental movement onto the world stage.

1990: Nelson Mandela Freed from Prison

 Nelson Mandela’s release from prison marked a major milestone for South Africa, as it came during a time of great progress for the country taking the steps to move away from apartheid. The afternoon of his release was a grand moment of celebration in Cape Town, as he gave his first speech as a free man and led the way to ending racial segregation in South Africa.

1992: Injured English Olympian Finishes Race with Help from His Dad 

When English runner Derek Redmond was halted by a hamstring injury during a 400-meter race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, he tried to continue around the track with a limp. But to help him finish the race, his father leapt past security and supported his son as he hobbled toward the finish line.

1992: Rio Earth Summit Takes Place 

In a massive move toward a more sustainable future for the planet, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the Rio Earth Summit, brought together scientists, political officials, diplomats, media representatives and members of nongovernmental organizations from over 179 countries to come up with attainable goals to achieve a healthier planet. 

1993: World Conference on Human Rights 

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) is a human-rights declaration adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights on June 25, 1993, in Vienna, Austria. This conference marked a turning point for human rights, as the Cold War had ended. Looking ahead to a more just world, the declaration sought to set an international standard for human rights.

1996: First Smiley on a Mobile Phone

 Marking the first moment an image of the original Smiley logo appeared on a mobile phone, the Alcatel’s greeting graphic and message of “C’est moi ” (it’s me) appeared when the phone was turned on, in an officially licensed partnership. This was a precursor to a new era of digital communication, when, today, billions of people around the world use emoticons to put more feeling into the way they talk through text.

1998: Is Launched 

With the invention of the internet and sites like, nonprofit organizations and charities have a wider ability to reach more communities in need and enlist volunteers to help them. Since its founding in 1998, has helped over 135,000 nonprofits find helping hands.


2001: Portugal Changes Perspectives on Drugs 

Small changes in the legal system can have huge repercussions across society as seen when Portugal decriminalized the personal use, acquisition and possession of all drugs, abolishing prison time and transforming a criminal issue into a matter of public health.

2002: Timebanking Expands to the UK 

Timebanking UK was founded, and since then, million of hours have been exchanged, often to the benefit of those in dire need, such as refugees and the homeless. The result? A new global community of sharing and a new perspective on currency.

2003: The Wikimedia Foundation Is Launched 

The Wikimedia Foundation launched in 2003 with the goal of maintaining an open-source online database of content for the public free of charge. In addition to its flagship online encyclopedia, dubbed Wikipedia, Wikimedia’s portfolio also includes Wikibooks, Wikimedia Commons, Wikiquote and Wikinews, among other projects.

2003: Movember Meme Begins Awareness Campaign for Men’s Health 

What began as a meme encouraging men not to shave their mustaches for the month of November grew into an annual event that raises awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention, while also encouraging men to talk about long-stigmatized issues around their own well-being.

2005: Organization to Help Educate Girls of Rural China Is Launched 

While China launched a mission in the 1970s to lift every member of its population out of poverty, the government has acknowledged that its efforts have fallen short in certain rural areas of the country. To combat this gap in resources, Canadian NGO Educating Girls of Rural China aims to help improve the quality of education through scholarship programs, mentorship, career planning, personal development, confidence-building and mentalhealth resources.

2006: (RED) Launches to Contribute to the Global Fund 

(RED) was founded in 2006 by U2 front man and activist Bono, together with Bobby Shriver of the One Campaign and DATA, with the idea to engage business and people in the fight to end AIDS. As red is the color of emergency, the founders chose the name as a signal that they are there to help defend vulnerable communities from the world’s biggest health crisis. In 2020, (RED) has shifted gear to fight the urgent threat of COVID.

2006: The Gulabi Gang, a Movement for Justice for Women in India, Is Formed 

With a central mission to protect women from abuse and fight corruption, the Gulabi Gang is a vigilante group of women between the ages of 18 and 60, donning pink saris and wielding sticks to confront abusers across India. The group empowers women and keeps a watch on their local communities, fighting instances of social injustice. 

2006: Great Bear Rainforest Is Legally Protected Against Logging 

To protect the future of the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem and its spectacular ancient trees and wildlife, the historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreement was reached, ultimately safeguarding over 7 million acres along the northern and central coasts of British Columbia.

2009: Young Boy Recognizes Similarities with President Barack Obama 

In a touching moment that symbolized the echoing effects of electing the United States’ first Black president, five-year-old Jacob Philadelphia asked President Obama if they had the same type of hair during a visit to the Oval Office. Without hesitation, the president bent down for Jacob to touch his hair, who remarked, “Yes, it does feel the same!”.


2010: Norway Pursues Restorative Justice 

The Norwegian approach to “restorative justice” is generally regarded by experts as an effective model and one of the most comprehensive in the world. The country’s new restorative justice saw prisons reimagined as rehabilitation facilities, leading to a 60 to 70 percent decrease in recidivism.

2010: All Thirty-Three Chilean Miners Are Rescued 

When the main ramp of the San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed, it trapped thirty-three Chilean miners 2,300 feet underground. Immediate search rescues did not provide any results, but soon after, there was a note discovered written by the miners, stating that they were all safe. In a miraculous move, joint efforts from both the Chilean government and the U.S. government finally managed to safely rescue all miners sixty-nine days after the collapse.

2010: Philanthropic Leaders Take the Giving Pledge

Founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, the Giving Pledge is a commitment taken on by the world’s wealthiest people to give back to the community from their own assets. As of 2021, more than 220 individuals and couples from 27 countries had signed on, including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, with a total combined pledge of more than $600 billion. 

2010: GoFundMe Is Created 

The for-profit crowdfunding platform allows those launching a campaign for donations to reach anyone around the world to help fund their celebrations and challenges alike. Since its founding, over $5 billion has been raised on the platform from over 50 million donors, cementing its legacy as one of the world’s greatest fundraising platforms. Notable campaigns include “The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund,” which raised $14.7 million, and the ongoing “America’s Food Fund,” which has raised $45.1 million.

2011: Goteo Founded in Spain

 Goteo is a free, open-source crowdfunding platform with a civic purpose, committed to fostering transparent and collaborative online networks. By donating money or volunteering their time, members can harness their resources—human, economic or technological— to benefit projects in their communities. 

2011: Christian Egyptians Show Solidarity with Muslim Egyptians

A group of Christian Egyptians joined hands in forming a protective circle surrounding hundreds of Muslim Egyptians as they knelt in prayer to protect them from protestors. That Sunday, the Muslim Egyptians returned the favor to their Christian counterparts who were celebrating Mass. Showing the unity of one nation despite their religious differences.

2011: Global Citizen Is Launched to End Poverty 

Global Citizen is an international education and advocacy organization with the goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030, defending the planet and demanding equity. The public can participate in the organization’s events as “Global Citizens” and give back to the community. In 2020, the organization partnered with Lady Gaga to produce a streamed concert called One World: Together at Home and raised a total of $128 million for charities. Pharrell performs at Global Citizen Festival in New York City, 2019. 

2011: Arabian Oryx Becomes First Animal Brought Back from Extinction 

As a result of reintroduction efforts since 1982, this majestic animal found in the Middle East was able to climb its way out of extinction in the wild. Countries such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE concentrated their efforts into captive breeding to save the species.

2013: The Belt and Road Initiative 

Known in Chinese (and formerly in English) as “One Belt One Road,” or OBOR for short, this massive global infrastructure project is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government to invest in more than seventy countries and international organizations, uplifting a global village along a shared path to prosperity. 

2013: The Ocean Cleanup Project Is Launched 

The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit foundation founded by Boyan Slat when he was only eighteen with the mission to develop technology that extracts plastic pollution before it reaches the oceans. In 2020, the organization has taken a step further and developed its first product, “the Ocean Cleanup Sunglasses,” made from the recycled plastic it has removed from the ocean. 

2013: Batkid Transforms San Francisco for Make-a-Wish Cancer survivor 

Miles Scott became Batkid for a day when he wished to be Batman’s sidekick through the Make-a-Wish foundation. When the request went out, thousands of volunteers, city officials and supporters turned San Francisco into “Gotham City” for a day as Batkid took part in several pre-planned crime scenarios. He ended his day of crime fighting by receiving the key to the city from San Francisco mayor Ed Lee.

2014: The Billion Tree Tsunami 

The Billion Tree Tsunami was launched by the Pakistani government as a response to the challenge of global warming, aiming to restore 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land. The government achieved its goal in 2017 and has now set the bar even higher: 10 billion trees by 2023.

2014: Malala Yousafzai Wins Nobel Peace Prize 

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in promoting education for all children and ending discrimination against girls. She shared the prize alongside Kailash Satyarthi, a fellow children’s rights activist from India.

2015: Almost 200 Countries Adopt the Paris Agreement 

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change that covers topics such as climate-change mitigation, adaptation and financing. The longterm goal of this treaty is to ensure that all countries take part in minimizing the 2015 steady climb of global warming that has already been detrimental to the planet.

2015: Tencent Creates the 99 Giving Day 

Every year, from September 7 through September 9, Tencent Charitable Foundation hosts its annual “99 Giving Day,” when it partners up with numerous charitable foundations, philanthropists and celebrities. The public can join via various social-media platforms or participate in person in activities such as “99 Steps Donation,” where organizations will donate money on behalf of a participant based on the number of steps walked.

2015: The China Global Philanthropy Institute Launches 

Founded by Bill Gates alongside other Chinese and American philanthropists, the China Global Philanthropy Institute was founded with a mission to cultivate a global philanthropic model by improving the professional standards of philanthropic education and strengthening international relations. They commit themselves towards the cultivation of talent across China and the world.

2016: France Passes Law to Fight Food Waste 

France adapted a new law in 2016 that made it the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they are only allowed to donate it to charities, food banks and other nongovernmental organizations. This law not only helps getting food to those who need it but also minimizes the harmful greenhouse emissions from food that ends up in landfill.

2017: Shakira Builds Seven Schools in South America 

Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation in 1997 with her goal to provide innovative educational infrastructure for public education in Colombia and Latin America. The singer focused on building the schools in rural areas to give the children an equal opportunity of education. In 2017, she announced plans to build her seventh school, in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.

2018: Women Gain Right to Drive in Saudi Arabia

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, lifted the ban on female drivers during the first year of his regime. More than 120,000 women applied for their first driver’s license the day the ban was lifted, as they finally took a seat behind the wheel instead of relying on private chauffeurs.

2018: Afghanistan Province Is Declared Free of Land Mines 

The HALO Trust de-mining group cleared Afghanistan’s Herat Province of land mines as part of a ten-year project funded by the British government. The land mines were estimated to have been laid since the 1980s, and with the mines gone, the province has potential for major economic improvement now that its agricultural land is safe from land mines.

2018: Iceland Becomes First Country to Enforce Equal Pay Across Genders 

The new law requires companies to prove that they pay all of their employees fairly without gender discrimination, and if companies fail to comply, they have to pay a daily fine. This law is the first of its kind in the world, and covers both the public and the private sector.

2019: Greta Thunberg Sparks Global Movement with Sail to UN Climate Conference 

While raising awareness on the carbon emissions from airplanes, climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean twice to attend UN climate conferences. The schoolgirl from Sweden helped spark a global movement of other students demanding actions from governments to fight climate change. Finding strength in numbers, young people have further come together though UNICEF’s “Youth for Climate Action” movement, which, through outlets like its Voices of Youth platform, is dedicated to elevating the voices of young people who are committed to protecting the future of our planet.

2019: Indigenous Tribe in Ecuador Wins Legal Battle to Protect Their Land 

The indigenous Waorani tribe marched through the streets of Puyo in victory when they had won a lawsuit against the Ecuadoran government for not properly consulting with them before opening up their territory to potential oil exploration. This final verdict saved around seven million acres of Amazonian forest and indigenous territory from oil drilling.

2019: India Plants 220 Million Trees 

More than a million people in India planted 220 million trees due to a government campaign that was launched to combat climate change and improve the environment. Students, lawmakers, officials and members of the public planted dozens of saplings of various species along roads and rail tracks and within the forests in Uttar Pradesh. The state is home to 220 million residents, a fact that inspired the number of trees to be planted: one for each resident. 


2020: First Covid-19 Vaccine Administered 

Sandra Lindsay, a critical-care nurse in New York, became the first individual in the United States to receive the PfizerBioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. This provided everyone with a glimmer of hope in terms of combating the coronavirus pandemic. Her hospital scrubs, her vaccination card and the hospital ID she wore the day she received her dose were donated to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

2020: One World: Together at Home Concert Raises $128 Million for Health-Care Workers

Global Citizen hosted its One World: Together at Home concert with the World Health Organization in support of the fight against Covid-19. The concert was curated by Lady Gaga and featured other celebrities, including Elton John and Celine Dion, to share the message that we are all connected at home even as we practice social distancing. In the end, a total of $128 million was raised for the WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

2020: Wuhan Celebrates Return to Normalcy After Covid Outbreak 

Wuhan, the city that recorded the first outbreak of Covid-19, celebrated life returning to normal one year from when the virus was first detected. The city has also shut down all the temporary hospitals that were built in haste to house Covid-19 patients. Shops have reopened, and people are attending pool parties and enjoying the nightlife once more while still abiding by Covid-19 precautionary measures.

2021: Chinese Monk Dedicates Life to Rescuing 8,000 Dogs 

Zhi Xiang, a fifty-one-year-old Buddhist monk, has spent the last twenty-seven years rescuing stray dogs from the streets of Shanghai. The dogs are housed at his Bao’en Temple monastery and an animal shelter that he runs. With the help of social media, these dogs have found homes in Canada, the United States and Germany.

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