Making Sense of Human Advocacy Narrative: Raising Support for People Seeking Asylum Among Diverse Audiences

Merrilyn Delporte, Bree Hurst, Jennifer Bartlett, Caroline Hatcher


Australian organizations supporting people seeking asylum face a challenging sociopolitical and communications environment. A dominant political narrative labels people seeking asylum as illegal arrivals, making it difficult to communicate humanizing alternatives capable of appealing to hearts and minds. This communication environment also limits the ability of advocacy organizations to raise community support. This research, involving a campaign delivered by an Australian advocacy organization, investigates how stakeholders make sense of human advocacy narrative. The campaign narrative focused on mobilizing activism for people seeking asylum, but in-depth interviews with participants revealed a wide range of emotional and cognitive responses. Findings result in a typology of three distinct audience types, offering insight into how and why different stakeholders respond to, and act on, the advocacy narratives designed to influence them. This research demonstrates how organizations can use communication to strengthen their appeal on emotive human advocacy issues, characterized by competing narratives.


communications, narrative, campaign, advocacy, refugees and asylum seekers, identity, sensemaking/sensegiving

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