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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

transform ideas into impact

This November, we’re embarking on a new way to transform ideas into impact.

Thinking and operating on a global scale has become so necessary to research, innovation, and the arts that we sometimes lose sight of how we, as individuals and institutions, can get to that level of complexity.

Isolation limits us—we need collaboration with those beyond our personal fields of expertise and beyond the borders of our countries, institutions, concepts, or positions.

The new Northwestern Buffett research trajectory is designed to leverage the full power of collaboration for scholars and thought leaders around the world to step outside of their usual communities, and to develop impactful research queries and plans for action. This process will offer real, sustainable support for meaningful outcomes in the world.

Stage 1: Idea Dialogues


The research trajectory begins with Idea Dialogues: opportunities to speak informally with colleagues across the University about Sustainable Development Goals that would benefit most from interdisciplinary research. Northwestern Buffett will receive initial proposals from faculty, then provide a lunch meeting where scholars can engage in low-stakes conceptual discussions.

 The Idea Dialogues are an exploration, not a strategic planning meeting. Great ideas come from curiosity and purposeful intellectual play, and these Idea Dialogues give invitees with diverse expertise a chance to engage in serious topics through interdisciplinary perspectives.

If the faculty involved in the Idea Dialogues determine that they could work collectively to address the questions they are pursuing, they are invited to participate in the next stage: an Idea Incubation Workshop.

Stage 2: Idea Incubation Workshop


The Idea Incubation Workshop is a three-day event aimed at developing collaborative approaches to
critical topics. The workshop brings together Northwestern scholars, international partners, practitioners, and subject matter experts from a range of disciplines to form thematic groups (“Idea Streams”) to identify emerging challenges that can be addressed through research, dialogue, strategic output, and action.

Idea Stream groups connect online before the workshop to meet one another, prioritize challenges,
consider critical questions, and identify others who could be included in the project. During the workshop, the Idea Stream groups will develop their ideas into a plan for collaborative research, innovation, creative work, or action to address the challenge they’ve chosen.

The workshop will include:

  • Plenary sessions
  • A fieldwork exercise
  • Developing a 2-year plan
  • Identifying ideal futures
  • Identifying barriers to success (and possible approaches to those barriers)
  • Targeting an audience
  • Pitching ideas to colleagues and experts

Stage 3: Working Groups


drb9qbvq.jpegComing up with ideas and plans is just the beginning. We’re in this for the long haul: we want to nurture and support selected Working Groups in up to two years of collaborative activities, including intensive research and active measures to influence policy, distribute solutions, and mitigate potential negative impacts on the target countries/communities. The groups will collaborate with stakeholders to reach policymakers, lawmakers, international bodies, and/or civil
society groups.

With each Working Group, this research trajectory will produce meaningful e-books, white papers, policy briefs, and/or other materials to share research findings and help others learn from and
grow our efforts to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

We’re very excited to engage expert voices from all over the school in this new collaborative, results-oriented process, and we hope you’ll join us for the inaugural workshop on November 15!