Evolving Crisis and Changing Networks: NGOs’ Stakeholder Engagement on the Global Refugee Crisis

Jingyi Sun, Aimei Yang, Adam J. Saffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) increasingly utilize social media for strategic stakeholder engagement. This study proposes a network-oriented theoretical framework to understand how NGOs’ engagement with complex networks of stakeholders on the global refugee issue varies as the issue moves from low to high public attention stages. We draw from research on multistakeholder issue networks and issue niche theory and analyze a large-scale Twitter data set containing tweets from hundreds of organizations from more than 30 countries. This cross-national, longitudinal study tracks issue evolution and NGOs’ tie formation patterns among themselves and with complex stakeholders (i.e., government and media) as public attention to the refugee issue increases. The results of our exponential random graph models (ERGMs) show how cross-sector stakeholders interact dynamically and how different issue identities position NGOs uniquely in issue niches as the issue evolves. We also find that organizations’ country-level homophily influences tie formation. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1423-1450
Number of pages28
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2021.


  • issue niche theory
  • multistakeholder issue network
  • network evolution
  • refugee crisis
  • stakeholder engagement


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