Social movements begin when large people are of like minds on an issue, find conditions intolerable and are prevented from getting satisfaction by the authorities or the government. They can include forming worker's unions, regular assemblies and protests, regular spates of rioting and violent expression, forming of political and lobbying groups, and even forming international alliances that become permanent institutions of power and leadership.
Social movements can be very small scale, as small as a group of employees within a department of a firm, a group of students or a religious group that challenges the local church leadership.
Social movements can be vast, as with the Nazi, communist, colonial revolution and today's terrorist organizations. Social movements can be global as with terrorist and international trade, relief, health and disaster response programs.
They can be quite public, in fact, thriving on the media that caters to them for as long as they draw audience. They can be completely false constructs, as with the town hall meeting disruptors who are not self initiating, but are hired, trained, financed and supported by well hidden individuals, agencies and organizations.
Social movements can right vast wrongs, inequities or abuses, as with the protestant reformation, colonial revolutions, women's suffrage, racial equality, worker's rights and patient's rights movements. All of these began with like minded people who found vastly more power and success through organized, well led and persistent large group expressions and actions.
Social movements can be from commercial campaigns that appeal to large groups of the public on some beneficial level, such as the "We Are The World" campaign and other major national and international projects that require a collaboration between corporations, professionals, governments and masses of individual volunteers.
The idea of rapid response disaster groups and agencies, such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent and international search and recovery specialists are social movements that eliminate as many international restrictions and boundaries as possible in order to move and use the best disaster response people, equipment and support as quickly as possible. This is massive social movement that requires the collaboration of national and regional governments.
Another example of a national government social movement is the World Trade Organization, where treaties are made to enhance the ability of businesses to trade with as little restriction as possible, across international boundaries. The World Trade Organization has created enough controversy to generate a massive international resistance to it's policies and actions.
As a result, whether it is a group of students who are unhappy at school or whether it is a group of nations who realize a need to take down barriers to trade, disaster response, world health and other social issues, social movements can be of any size.
But, social movements have, alarmingly become a highly effective tool of those who wish to pull the strings of societies from positions of authority, concealment and secrecy. These movements are given the deceptive appearance of "grassroots" movements, but are actually well financed social engineering campaigns.
In summary, social movements sometimes have not always been as they appeared to be on the surface. The idea of a ragtag group of righteous and justifiably dissatisfied individuals forming into a heroic national movement that improves the lives of many must now be tempered with a critical eye, solid investigation and a lesson from history that social movements in the past have resulted both in the good as well as the horrific.