Understanding public engagement with global aid agencies on Twitter: A technosocial framework

Saif Shahin, Zehui Dai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study develops a technosocial framework for assessing the efficacy of global aid agencies’ use of Twitter’s algorithmic affordances for participatory social change. We combine computational and interpretive methods to examine tweets posted by three global aid agencies—U.S. Agency for International Development, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the International Committee of the Red Cross—as well as public tweets that mention these agencies (N = ~100,000). Results indicate that when an agency (a) replies to or retweets public tweeters, (b) includes publicly oriented hashtags and hyperlinks in its tweets, and (c) tweets about topics that the public is also interested in and tweeting about, the social network that develops around the agency is more interconnected, decentralized, and reciprocal. Our framework can help development institutions build more participatory social networks, with multiple voices helping determine collective goals and strategies of collective action for sustainable social change. We also discuss the theoretical implications and methodological significance of our approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1707
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican behavioral scientist
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Global Aid Agencies
  • Twitter
  • Participatory Social Change


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