Organizational sensemaking in tough times: The ecology of NGOs’ COVID-19 issue discourse communities on social media

Yiqi Li, Jieun Shin, Jingyi Sun, Hye Min Kim, Yan Qu, Aimei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


NGOs are important civil actors in societies' emergency and disaster responses, and they come together on social media to identify prominent issues and coordinate issue responses. This research explores how U.S. NGO form topic-driven communities on social media to discuss and build representational strategic networks around issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from Issue Niche Theory, we examined how NGOs' networks and discourse evolved before and after the general public paid great attention to the COVID-19 issue and how such patterns changed across the whole issue niche and sub-issue niches. We analyzed the evolution of Twitter-based networks and discourse of 2,588 NGOs in the first five months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Our analysis revealed important factors that shape tie formation patterns in the NGOs' communities in this novel issue niche. The findings show that NGOs’ discourses help to orient the organizational community to identify most salient issues. Finally, changes in the discourse patterns reflected changes in the communication networks in the NGO community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106838
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Issue niche
  • NGO
  • Organizational community
  • Social issue discourse
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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