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Mobilizing the Donor Public: Dynamics of Development NGOs' Message Framing

Okada, Aya (2013) Mobilizing the Donor Public: Dynamics of Development NGOs' Message Framing. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In industrialized, donor societies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in international development are one of the few sources of information through which the public learns about poverty in Third World countries. With limited knowledge and familiarity with the cause, the donor public builds their understanding and opinions through NGOs’ explanations of the problems, potential solutions, and rationales for getting involved.

Highlighting development NGOs’ role as discourse makers, this dissertation applies framing theory to present NGOs as strategic framing agents, with the power and the ability to decide what information to present in what manner. I conduct framing analysis to examine dynamics of message framing in print documents that NGOs in Japan use to mobilize the people towards international development.

The study finds the tendency of development NGOs in Japan to emphasize actionability of international development, representing global poverty as an issue that can be solved through organizational and individual actions, rather than describing the nature and complexity of the problem. At the organizational level, NGOs’ emphasize their experience, accomplishments, and credibility. At the individual level, NGOs incentivize the audience by emphasizing their ability to contribute to eradicating poverty without much difficulty. NGOs decide to present such message framings through interpretation of external and internal contexts in which they operate, taking into account audience receptivity, organizational characteristics, and ethical soundness.

This study makes its primary contribution to the study of development NGOs in three ways. First, by introducing the perspectives of strategic communication and social marketing, I expand the scope of NGOs’ message framing from a focus on how NGOs represent problems and interventions made in developing countries, to a focus on how they motivate the donor public to join the cause. I find that development NGOs in Japan are distancing themselves from their role of describing the complexity of global poverty and international development. Second, by applying framing theory, the study sheds light on decision making processes that take place as NGOs frame communication messages. Third, the study provides an empirical study of development NGOs’ strategic communication practices in Japan, adding a case of underexplored non-Western contexts.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairNelson, Paulpjnelson@pitt.eduPJNELSON
Committee MemberComfort, Louiselkc@pitt.eduLKC
Committee MemberThemudo, Nunothemudo@pitt.eduTHEMUDO
Committee MemberKim,
Date: 26 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 March 2013
Approval Date: 26 June 2013
Submission Date: 10 May 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 275
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: International Development, NGO, Japan, Nonprofit Organization, Framing, Strategic Communication
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2013 19:20
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


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