Social Media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOS): Transformed Challenges for Governance

Social Media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOS): Transformed Challenges for Governance

Kari Steen-Johnsen (Institute for Social Research, Norway) and Bernard Enjolras (Institute for Social Research, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8188-0.ch009


This qualitative case study describes and analyzes the use of social media by Amnesty International Norway (AIN), a medium-sized human rights organization. Specifically, the case looks at how and to what extent AIN fulfilled its aims of enhancing information, public debate, and mobilization for campaigns through the use of Facebook and the organization's own website blog. While AIN saw great potentials in using social media, a core question was whether opening up for more lateral communication would lead to a loss of trustworthiness and organizational identity. Although AIN experienced an initial lack of success in using social media to generate response and mobilization in 2011, it was able to develop a powerful social media strategy resulting in high degrees of activity and exchange in 2014. Findings indicated that this change seemed to rely both on the ability of AIN to reflect upon its own governance structures and on the organization's ability to learn from experience.
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Conceptual/Theoretical Framework

Organizational governance is the overall framework guiding this case. Governance is a broad concept. It is used in multiple disciplines, and has been accused of fuzziness and polysemy (Weiss, 2000). A distinction is often made in the literature between external governance, which is concerned with the processes by which societies are governed, and internal or organizational governance—the organizational processes and structures by which organizations are governed (Steen-Johnsen, Eynaud & Wijkstrom, 2011). More and more, however, contributors to the NPO governance literature are tending to emphasize the interconnections between external and internal governance. Stone and Ostrower (2007), for example, argued for a broadening of the scope of the nonprofit literature precisely to address this posited interaction between NPO governance and society at large. From this standpoint they have developed a range of implications for future NPO governance research. Research needs first to analyze the interaction between nonprofits and their environment; second, it needs to conceptualize governance as a complex and multi-layered process involving a range of different actors; and third, it should seek to analyze the outcomes of different modes of governance in more specific ways (Stone & Ostrower, 2007).

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