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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Research & Collaboration

Challenges like migration, poverty, gender violence, access to water, and data governance are not confined by borders or cultures. However, research is too often conducted by scholars working in silos of expertise, geography, culture, and language.

Northwestern Buffett’s role is to help break down barriers and intellectual silos. We create opportunities for dialogue across disciplines—humanities, social sciences, business, law, STEM, and the arts—and we expand collaborations to include international scholars and experts from global civil society, policy worlds, industry, and the arts. We collectively define questions and set the direction for research.

Our goal is to identify and address gaps in research and response around critical global issues. We seek to anticipate future environmental disasters, political and military conflicts, economic crises, and problems of social justice globally.

Here's our approach.

Idea Incubation to Action

Idea Dialogues

Idea dialogues bring together Northwestern faculty from across disciplines and schools to generate conversations and catalyze new ideas around a critical global challenge.

Is there a global problem you want to solve through collaborative research? Are you interested in the opportunity to speak informally with colleagues across the University about the issues and questions relevant to that problem?

Propose a topic or reach out to Emory Erker-Lynch with any questions.

Multilingual Online Forums

Led by experts from partner universities and practitioners from across sectors, members in the digital forums explore questions around critical risks and opportunities in targeted focus areas. There are more than 1,000 members from around the world, and forum contributions are currently translated into four languages: English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Korean.

Forums encourage conversations across languages and borders, and give participants access to individuals, areas of expertise, and parts of the world typically out of reach.

Explore recent Forum Summaries. To participate, contact Ariel Schwartz

Idea Incubation Workshops

Idea Incubation Workshops at Northwestern will serve to catalyze new ideas that will help define the Institute’s direction for research and international engagement. Workshops will draw scholars from across Northwestern schools, representatives of international partner institutions, practitioners, and subject matter experts from a broad range of disciplines for intensive working sessions.

Learn more.

Global Summits

This annual event is designed to bring together interdisciplinary groups from across the globe to identify critical challenges ahead, define stakeholders, map complex problems, and identify gaps in research and crisis preparedness.

The interdisciplinary groups focus on the creation of plans designed for long-term impact. Groups with quality proposals that emerge from the Summit are transitioned into long-term Global Working Groups for research and action.

A rapid, creative, and iterative approach helps produce ideas that move past reflection toward substantive solutions. Cross-cultural, multilingual, interdisciplinary collaborations produce outputs that are substantive and have the potential for broad impact.

For more information, contact Emory Erker-Lynch.

Global Working Groups

Based on the strength of a group’s research agenda and plan for active response to the oncoming global challenge they identified, quality proposals developed in Idea Streams are selected by a review committee. Working Groups are designed to support up to two years of collaborative activities, including intensive research and active measures to influence policy, distribute solutions, and mitigate the impact of the challenge on target countries/communities.

Digital forums are again used to explore critical questions that arise and to supplement Working Group member input with additional contributions from relevant interdisciplinary and international experts.

To find out more, contact Emory Erker-Lynch.

Action Plans

Our research supports the development of clear preparedness strategies aimed at local, regional, or global target audiences. Group outputs—such as e-books, white papers, policy briefs/recommendations, or public education materials—are created to share research findings and offer insight in dialogue with stakeholders.

The ultimate goal is for research to be used in collaboration with stakeholders who can generate the greatest social impact. This includes:

  • Reaching policymakers, lawmakers, and/or civil society groups in one country, multiple countries, or with international bodies to promote change;
  • Bringing together decision-makers, experts, and people/communities likely to be impacted by a coming crisis into the same room for creative exchange, establishment of networks, and planning designed to advance preparedness;
  • Developing and disseminating public education tools, laws and regulations, public campaigns, or creative works aimed crisis mitigation.