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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Idea Dialogue Archive

Idea Dialogues encourage cross-disciplinary conversations about topics of global importance, with the goal of inspiring new research questions and transnational research projects. Learn more about the Idea Dialogues we’ve hosted to date:

2021-2022 Academic Year

Data and Justice

December 6, 2021

Description: The “Data and Justice” Idea Dialogue asked participants to consider how we can better enable holistic and systematic analyses of law, its enforcement, and its impact in different countries and transnationally through the compilation and public availability of various datasets. Participants discussed how to best connect and collaborate with scholars in other countries with greater knowledge of non-U.S. justice systems and expressed interest in identifying strategies to make it easier to quantify standards of equitable justice in liberal democracies that could then be made available to relevant global populations.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Adam Pah, Clinical Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations, Kellogg School of Management

Disaster Preparedness

November 29, 2021

Description: How can we better prepare to respond more quickly – and marshal resources more effectively – in response to natural disasters? How can communities and local infrastructures develop greater resiliency to crisis?  The “Disaster Preparedness” Idea Dialogue asked participants to consider how we should think about disasters–especially when distinguishing between punctuated disasters and those that are slow-moving or evolving.  The dialogue emphasized the importance of voicing the concerns of affected communities and considering their cultural differences and socio-economic conditions when responding to disasters.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Lorenzo Gallon, Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine

AI and Social Movements

November 19, 2021

Description: The “AI and Social Movements” Idea Dialogue sought to understand the ways that artificial intelligence and machine learning support our understanding of emergent or escalating social movements and protests.  The dialogue asked participants to take into consideration whether there is enough relevant data to make meaningful predictions about possible violence and to consider the ethical standards and purpose behind the deployment of this technology. 

Idea Dialogue proposer: V.S. Subrahmanian, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Computer Science, McCormick School of Engineering; Faculty Fellow, Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Language Curricula and Gender

September 1, 2021

 Description: Although there have been many studies on gender inequality in education, few emphasize the role curricula in general – and language curricula in particular – may play in abating gender inequities, dismantling stereotypes, and preventing outright discrimination. This idea dialogue sought to identify how university language curricula exacerbates cultural assumptions and stereotypes about gender, and how language might be marshalled to help advance gender equity in education and beyond.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Rana Raddawi, Asistant Professor of Instruction, Middle East and North African Languages Program, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences

2020-2021 Academic Year

Climate Change Migration and Media Arts

January 29, 2021

Description: As human geographer and filmmaker Brett Story laments, we have no shortage of scholarly studies and media representations offering staggering stats and fearsome projections about climate change; yet these contributions unfortunately have had limited effect on policy and law, and even less impact on changing individual behaviors and cultural responses to climate change. Through an exploration of interdisciplinary methodologies and media arts practice, this Idea Dialogue encourages a conversation about the lived experiences of climate change and migration, as well as a phenomenology and aesthetics of climate change.

Idea Dialogue proposer: JP Sniadecki, Associate Professor; Director of the MFA in Documentary Media

Latinx Digital Media

January 28, 2021

Description: The proliferation of digital media across the Americas -and of Latinx digital media as a field of study -presents new challenges and opportunities for teaching, research, and programming. What are these obstacles and openings, and how might they expand our scholarly and pedagogical efforts in Latinx digital media? How can we use this knowledge to improve and diversify the teaching of journalism, media, and communication studies? How might we draw on Latinx digital media to help reduce inequalities within and across countries, and to promote more inclusive and equitable educational opportunities? In partnership with the Center for Latinx Digital Media, this Idea Dialogue encourages a conversation about the ways that media actors and academics collaborate across North-South and South-South lines to survey the challenges and solutions offered by digital platforms in the context of the media, with the aim of providing quality education and lifelong learning opportunities across the Americas.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Pablo Boczkowski, Professor; Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor; Director, MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises, Mei-Ling Hopgood, Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Jairo Lugo-Ocando, director of executive and graduate education and professor in residence at Northwestern Universityin Qatar.

Race, Caste, Colorism: Critical Histories, Pedagogies, and Literatures

January 21, 2021

Description: This summer, as our nation was forced to reckon with the long history of systemic violence against black Americans, Isabel Wilkerson published Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House 2020), where she took the example of the Hindu/Indian system of caste to radically reframe the modern histories of race and racism in the United States. In so doing, Wilkerson’s book belied false narratives of racial exceptionalism long fostered in both countries. While scholars of race, caste, postcolonialism, religion, history, ethnic and area studies, and other fields have long made these connections, often in more pointed historical or linguistic contexts, Wilkerson’s book has brought increased public attention to the shared structures and political philosophies that underwrite both U.S. racial segregation and Hindu/Indian caste as particular kinds of political systems that mobilize social hierarchies through color and colorism. In this Idea Dialogue we seek to engage with colleagues across disciplines, and working in areas beyond the U.S. and South Asia as well

Idea Dialogue proposer:

Laura Brueck, Chair; Associate Professor of South Asian Literature and Culture, Department of Asian Languages and Culture, Northwestern University, and Ivy Wilson, Associate Professor of English, Northwestern University

Global Health Data and Privacy

December 8, 2020

Description: In the current digital era, there are an increasing number of platforms (e.g., Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok) that use pictures of people as a primary exchange medium. Different countries have different rules and regulations to protect privacy and patient health information. A Feinberg-based research group has been working on an app that uses human pictures to screen for surgical diseases and needs to think creatively about how to overcome the regulatory, legal, and ethical challenges created by sharing these pictures across state, national and international borders. How are we to navigate various national legalities concerning data privacy, and how might we grapple with problems around data security?

Idea Dialogue proposer:  Fizan Abdullah, Professor of Surgery (Pediatric Surgery), Hassan Ghomrawi, Associate Professor of Surgery (Pediatric Surgery) and Pediatrics, and Satyender Goel, Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University School of Law and Founder and Director of India Health Link.

Science, Innovation, and Development

December 3, 2020

Description: Although intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity are uniformly distributed across the globe, opportunities are not. How might research from the field of the science of science and innovation positively impact global inequality? How might insights from this work help individuals and communities typically underrepresented in the area of innovation to achieve their full potential? In partnership with the Center for the Science of Science and Innovation, Northwestern Buffett will host an Idea Dialogue about knowledge creation in the emerging area of science and innovation. Which aspects of global inequality and innovation are most pressing to address? Where (regions, research foci, etc.) should this field focus its attention most immediately?

Idea Dialogue proposer: Dashun Wang, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management and the Founding Director of the Center for Science of Science and Innovation (CSSI)

Women Leaders in the Courts

November 30, 2020

Description: Notwithstanding evidence from various contexts that gender diversity in areas of governance has tremendous value, dramatic gender differentials in political and institutional leadership are still pervasive in all areas of the world. How do we increase women’s participation and leadership in areas of governance across the world? And how we do ensure that female leadership translates into meaningful improvements in women’s agency, dignity, and equality?

Idea Dialogue proposer:  Erin Delaney, Professor of Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law 

Media Portrayals of Mental Illness

November 6, 2020

Description: Previous critiques have highlighted the many inaccuracies in the way that conditions defined as mental disorders in the U.S. and Western Europe are typically depicted in films and television. These inaccuracies arguably contribute to stigma, misunderstanding, and added distress for affected individuals. But more importantly, these representations often ignore the social and cultural determinants of mental illness and the diverse and complex manifestations of psychological and emotional distress across contexts.

Idea Dialogue proposer:  David Tolchinsky, professor; founding director and current co-director of Northwestern University’s MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage program

Antibiotic Resistance

September 21, 2020

Description: Antibiotic resistance is a critical global problem that is no longer limited to the healthcare environment and requires a multi-disciplinary integrative approach. Significant knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of the socioeconomic factors driving resistance, transmission dynamics of multi-drug resistant bacteria and effective and globally applicable prevention strategies.

Idea Dialogue proposer:  Mehreen ArshadAssistant Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases)

2019-2020 Academic Year

LMIC Surgery and Technology

July 9, 2020

Description: Seven billion children lack access to surgical care. One-third of the global burden of disease is due to surgically treatable conditions with 17 million people dying annually.  In 2015, the World Health Assembly formally recognized the lack of access to surgical care as a global health crisis–access to surgery and anesthesia is a vital component of universal health coverage. Many stakeholders towards addressing the problem exist but are siloed in disease-specific organizations and programs. The group will discuss how to translate real-time virtual imaging to quantify the likelihood of congenital surgical disease and triage patients to appropriate care, particularly as a challenge in low- and middle-income countries.

Idea Dialogue proposers: Fizan Abdullah, Professor of Surgery (Pediatric Surgery), and Hassan GhomrawiAssociate Professor of Surgery (Pediatric Surgery) and Pediatrics

Trauma, Music, and the Breath

June 24, 2020

People around the world suffer from varying forms of trauma: from the current collective trauma of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic to the global refugee crisis; from physical, sexual, and emotional abuses to systemic institutionalized violence against people of color or religious minorities. Studies have shown that trauma is deeply physical, absorbed and retained in the body for years – even passed down genetically between generations. With this in mind, how might we use the body to heal the body? In what ways might music, and especially singing, counter the effects of PTSD and support people around the globe in recovering from trauma?

Idea Dialogue proposer: Heather Aranyi, Lecturer at The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern

Fraud and Transparency in Covid-19 Supply Chains

April 28, 2020

Autism and the Workplace

March 11, 2020

Description: The vast majority of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are unemployed or underemployed. We seek to explore the costspersonal, professional, economic, socialof limited numbers of adequately employed people with ASD and to address ways to navigate associated challenges.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Alvaro Sandroni, E.D. Howard Professor in Political Economy at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Citizenship & Rights

October 30, 2019

Definitions of citizenship and rights. The question of who is a citizen is one of membership in a government that provides rights and requires responsibilities. How expansive (or not) that definition of citizenship is can differ greatly and is not unrelated to how extensive the rights and benefits of gaining membership. Additionally, economic growth relates to definitions of citizenship because increased wealth motivates the closing or borders. I study this in Native tribes in the U.S., but tribes, even though they are nations, still operate under a U.S. dependency status. I would be interested in discussing the interrelatedness of citizenship, rights, and economic development with scholars in a more global framework.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Beth Redbird, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

Precision Pharmacosurveillance

October 2, 2019

Substandard/falsified medicines represent a quintessential global health problem that transcends national boundaries. A 2018 systematic review estimated that 13% of medicines are substandard or falsified, representing approximately $200 billion (USD) in lost sales of legitimate medicines with associated reputational risk. Stockouts persist in low- and middle-income countries yet are a lose-lose situation for patients and pharmaceutical companies, often because of weak supply chains. Pharmaceutical companies, distributors, and health systems, including Northwestern Medicine, are working to adhere to new US regulations, namely the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (, along with similar regulations in the EU through the Falsified Medicines Directive. These regulations seek to improve the interoperability and capacity of systems to track-and-trace medicines down to the patient level. Many of the largest companies in the world today have the best supply chains and logistics teams that could be harnessed to tackle substandard/falsified medicines to transform pharmacosurveillance systems around the world.  Precision public health aims to leverage large data sources for "robust primary surveillance data, rapid application of sophisticated analytics to track the geographical distribution of (medicines), and the capacity to act on such information" according to Dowell et al. (Nature 2016), and in the context of next-generation global medicine supply chains, this can be considered precision pharmacosurveillance. Despite this major public health need and exponential growth in global supply chain systems, the problem of substandard and falsified medicine has garnered relatively little attention yet offers an opportunity for transdisciplinary collaboration wherein Northwestern and its partners could play a key role.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Mark Huffman, Director, Institute for Global Health - Center for Global Cardiovascular Health Quentin D. Young Professor of Health Policy Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology) and Medicine (Cardiology)

2018-2019 Academic Year

Palliative Care and Humanitarian Crises

June 13, 2019

Palliative care is not an topic that is often though of in the context of humanitarian crises. However, an issue such as pain management in a refugee camp is very important. We have a contract with Oxford University Press for a textbook, and we have interest from Doctors Without Borders and other NGOs. We have developmed curriculum on palliative care for veterans, emergency care, etc., and we are interested in developing curriculum and an educational module in this context. We need expertise from journalism, law, social sciences, ethics/religion, people who do refugee work, etc.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Joshua Hauser, Associate Professor of Medicine (Hospital Medicine) and Medical Education, and Elisha Waldman, Chief of Palliative Care in the Department of Pediatrics Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Palliative Care)

Global Environmental Challenges and Social Justice

May 30, 2019

Climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, deforestation, pollution, and other global environmental challenges require unprecedented cooperation, innovation, and creativity to effectively address. At the same time, the drivers, impacts, and capabilities related to global environmental change are unequally distributed. Thus, prioritizing social justice, human rights, and indigenous rights is essential for developing effective responses to environmental challenges. This Ideas lunch aims to generate conversations and ideas that respond to calls from scholarly, practitioner, and activist communities that demand transdisciplinary research designs to address these wicked global problems.

Idea Dialogue proposer: Kim Suiseeya, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Policy and Culture program at Northwestern University

Censorship, Propaganda, and Persecution of Journalists

May 9, 2019

Very soon after being elected President of Russia in 2000, Putin moved to ban political satire on Russian television. Next, his regime took control of broadcast news editorial policy, effectively ensuring control of public opinion in Russia. Social media and direct streaming present real opportunities to break through the government's censorship and propaganda, and independent-minded Russians have tried to present alternative views using these new media. Unfortunately, these content producers have faced various forms of persecution, from arrest to physical violence. The more fortunate ones have emigrated, and set up media platforms in neighboring countries. They need technical advice to reach audiences in Russia and develop content, and Northwestern, with its Schools of Journalism and Communication, and Russia area experts, is well positioned to help.

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