START researcher Stephanie Madden received a 2012 Top Student Paper award in the Public Relations Division at the National Communication Association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Her paper, "Utilizing Narrative to Understand Activism: A Case Study of Invisible Children," is derived from Madden's thesis for her master's degree in Communication from the University of Maryland.
Using a qualitative case study approach, this paper explored how documentaries and other forms of narrative produced by the activist group Invisible Children influenced identity formation for individual activists.
Individual interviews were conducted with activists from across the country who demonstrated a high level of involvement with the organization.
"Invisible Children follows a unique nonprofit model because of its focus on creating documentaries that are targeted towards young people to mobilize support and action to end violence by the Lord's Resistance Army in East and Central Africa,"
Madden said. "I wanted to explore how this focus on stories influenced young people's identity formation as activists for Invisible Children."
The findings from this study revealed that the narrative of the founding of Invisible Children itself was important for involvement with the organization, contributing to identity sense of personal identification with the organization. Additionally, activists felt that participating in Invisible Children allowed them to be a part of the story and contribute to a "happy ending" by ending the conflict perpetuated by the Lord's Resistance Army.