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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

AI and Social Movements

Social movements have the potential to reshape the world, but their success is often hindered by a failure to capture the necessary attention or resources. The AI and Social Movements group is an interdisciplinary team of researchers working to design and build an online portal that tracks the presence of social movements worldwide and assesses their efficacy and prospects.

About the Project


Social movements evolve over time, and their varied activities, aims, and formations play a significant role in shaping our world of experience. However, there are few reliable platforms that allows journalists, researchers, and policy makers to gain a robust understanding of how social movements evolve and what impacts they might have in their communities. Our work aims to address the limited and fragmentary information we have of social movements by building the models necessary to comprehensively track their life-cycles.

Group Members


  • V.S. Subrahmanian, Computer Science, McCormick School of Engineering
  • Brayden King, Management & Organizations, Kellogg School of Management

Group members:

  • Sirus Bouchat, Political Science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kate Compton, Computer Science, McCormick School of Engineering
  • Jeremy Gilbert, Medill School of Journalism
  • Dan Linna, Pritzker School of Law
  • Aaron Shaw, Communication Studies, School of Communication
  • Rob Voigt, Linguistics, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Latest Work and Developments

Research Activities

  • The AI and Social Movements Group is developing SMART, a Social Movement Analysis & Reasoning Tool that will serve as a global real-time web portal that tracks social movements from around the world. The group is also establishing legal and ethically sound methods of disseminating information about budding social movements to journalists and policymakers. 
  • The group has developed algorithms for online data collection from Reddit and Twitter and leveraged advancements in ChatGPT and its variants to track posts on these platforms that signal emerging social movements in virtually all major world languages.
  • The SMART portal is currently being tested and validated by a select group of journalists, scholars, activists and policymakers.
  • In fall 2023, the group developed a functional prototype of their SMART dashboard. The prototype tracks social media posts and news articles related to social movements across three pressing global issues—poverty, gender equality and energy.