Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Marla Solomon


Nonprofits or interest groups which become involved in policy advocacy constantly engage in the process of constituency-building: that is, expanding interest in and support for a group's issue through public outreach. A broad-based constituency is crucial for such groups. Without significant public support, an interest group's proposals will not be taken seriously by policymakers. One method that nonprofit interest groups use to reach the public and garner support for an issue is media advocacy: "strategic use of mass media as a resource for advancing a social or public policy initiative." This paper explores the media's role in the formation of public policy through the case study method.

InterAction, a coalition of U.S. based international development organizations, developed a media advocacy campaign to support their overall policy advocacy strategy for combating foreign aid cuts in 1994-1995. The background research for this narrative case study was carried out through primary document review and semi-structured interviews with participants in the campaign. The case is analyzed through a theoretical framework which synthesizes theory on communications, media, and public policy. Media advocacy theory, which was developed based on the experiences of U.S. nonprofits and interest groups, is applied to the context of U.S.-based international development organizations.

The paper concludes that InterAction's advocacy campaign succeeded in raising awareness of the group's issues with policymakers, but not necessarily the public. Media advocacy represents a short-term intervention which cannot greatly influence individual beliefs developed over the course of a lifetime. The paper recommends that PVOs interested in broadening their constituencies consider focusing on education and community networking.