Collaborative Research: Mind Mapping Consumers and Activists' Response to NGO-Corporate Partnerships

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project Summary (to be pasted into text boxes) I. Overview The proposed research examines how activists and consumers react to a variety of messages concerning a spectrum of NGO-corporate partnerships. We hypothesize that the messages about NGO-corporate partnerships will moderate the effects of initial poor fit. This project fulfills three important objectives: (1) to expand our understanding about the impact of communicated NGO-corporate partnerships on consumers and activists’ attitudes, intention to purchase, intention to donate, and intention to engage in activism, (2) to understand the ways that such messages might overcome initially incongruent pairings through the inclusion of or exclusion of certain message characteristics and (3) to understand how the type of NGO-corporate partnership may moderate these relationships. Utilizing an innovative semantic network analysis method in three online experiments, the study will map both consumers and activists’ mental models of corporations and NGOs. We examine how various descriptors influence the transformation of those mental models and the effects of those transformations on desired outcomes. II. Intellectual Merit The proposed research makes five contributions to current scholarship, both addressing gaps in research in social network analysis, nonprofit research, and research on corporate social responsibility. (1) This research adapts prior work on semantic network analysis and marketing to map the impact of communicated NGO-corporate partnerships. By incorporating such semantic networks into an experimental design, this research is poised to create new insights into factors that shape the meanings of semantic networks. (2) In contrast to previous research on brand pairings, this research builds on Shumate and O’Connor’s (2010a) work examining companies in varied economic industries and nonprofits that address a variety of social issues, enhancing the generalizability of the work. (3) This research builds on the PIs work on the Symbiotic Sustainability Model (see Shumate & O’Connor, 2010b), providing the first test of the propositions focusing on the outcomes various types of communicative constructions of these partnerships. (4) The proposed research examines how both external stakeholder groups react to messages about NGO-corporate partnerships. Previous research has only empirically examined consumers. In contrast, the proposed research will uncover how activists and consumers differ in their reaction to these messages and what explains these differences. (5) Fifth, the proposed research examines types of partnerships. Previous scholarship has focused on charitable co-branding partnerships. This research will also examine collective impact and NGO certification partnerships. III. Broader Impacts This proposal makes 4 important contributions to society. The first of these impacts is the training of a computer science graduate student in social scientific research methods, namely experimental methods. Such interdisciplinary collaboration is important as it advances both social science and computer science research agendas. Second, this research recruits and trains a group of undergraduate research assistants to administer the online experiments and conduct preliminary data analysis. As such, it aims to train a new generation of students in scientific methods. Third, as companies seek to reap benefits from both customers and to limit risk exposure from activists, the findings of this research will be of keen interest to managers. We will make the findings of t
Effective start/end date4/15/143/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (SES-1359610)


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