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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Idea Dialogues

Is there a problem of global significance you want to address through collaborative interdisciplinary research? Are you interested in the opportunity to speak informally with Northwestern University faculty and researchers about the issues and questions relevant to that problem? We invite you to propose a topic of interest by completing our idea submission form.

Idea Dialogue - Persecution of Journalists

About Idea Dialogues

The Northwestern Buffett Idea Dialogues bring together Northwestern faculty from across disciplines and schools to generate conversations and catalyze new ideas around a critical global challenge. Idea Dialogue participants convene for a casual breakfast or lunch to discuss a global problem that requires interdisciplinary research.

Idea Dialogues encourage cross-disciplinary conversations about particular topics of global import. The hope is that these discussions will uncover new research questions and perspectives that could become global research projects. Idea Dialogues will also cultivate new faculty connections and collaborations.

Northwestern Buffett staff will coordinate logistics and provide facilitating support for Idea Dialogues. We will work with you to generate a list of invitees with diverse expertise from across campus.

Participation in Idea Dialogues must be open to all faculty members at Northwestern and should speak to a question relevant to a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.


2020-2021 Academic Year

Northwestern Buffett is eager to receive Idea Dialogue proposals from faculty interested in addressing any and all critical global challenges necessitating interdisciplinary research. 

This year, in conjunction with our new webinar series, “Building Sustainable Futures,” we especially encourage proposals pertaining to any of the three UN Sustainable Development Goals we are addressing through the webinars:

  • SDG #16: “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions” – possible topics include: racism; the rule of law; global policing; white sovereignty; corruption and bribery; and democracy, authoritarianism, and violence
  • SDG #13: “Climate Action”– possible topics include: climate change awareness; climate change-planning and management; climate action and youth; international governance and national policies on climate
  • SDG #10: “Reduced Inequalities” – possible topics include: inequality in education; safe and responsible migration and mobility; countering discriminatory law; global financial markets and financial flows

While we are particularly keen to curate Idea Dialogues addressing these three SDGs, we continue to welcome all Idea Dialogue proposals grappling with global problems related to any of the UN SDGs. 

If you have any questions about the Idea Dialogues, or want to discuss a potential topic before submitting a proposal, please reach out to Associate Director for Research, Ariel Schwartz, at


Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I submit an Idea Dialogue proposal?

Idea Dialogues provide a unique opportunity for you to feel out early-stage or nascent ideas with no stakes other than an enjoyable chat with colleagues over a meal. We encourage you to propose a new idea simply to initiate an exploratory conversation with faculty beyond your field or school, who are invested in similar questions and who will likely bring to bear different perspectives on your suggested topic.

What happens after an Idea Dialogue takes place?

Typically, Idea Dialogues result in one of three outcomes:

  • Idea Dialogues that participants deem ready for deeper cogitation and research project development can move onto the next Idea Incubation Workshop.
  • Idea Dialogues that participants determine need more reflection and discussion can convene another Northwestern Buffett-supported Idea Dialogue, albeit with a differently articulated question and/or additional faculty or experts.
  • Idea Dialogues may result in new one-on-one collaborations; spark ideas for individual researchers that lead to future outputs; or provide a starting point for a group of faculty to pursue alternative avenues to advance the topic (e.g., grant proposals).

What are examples of topics that past Idea Dialogues addressed?

Below are previous Idea Dialogues topics and their key questions. Highlighted topics took part in our 2019 Idea Incubation Workshop. The Environment and Social Justice group was the first Winning Idea Incubation Workshop group and now exists as the Disproportionate Impacts of Environmental Challenges Working Group.

  • Wicked national security: What are today’s new forms of extra-national security threats (e.g. cyberattacks), and how might scholars and military experts alike better understand them in order to address them?

  • Persecution of journalists: In what ways can we support journalists facing censorship and persecution in different regions around the world?

  • Sustainable development: What are the benefits, disadvantages, and potential barriers universities face in joining the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network?

  • Precision pharmacosurveillance: How might we harness supply chains and logistics teams to tackle the global health problem of substandard and/or falsified medicines?

  • Environment and social justice: How can we engage marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change in seeking responses to it?

  • Citizenship and rights: To what extent and in what ways do differing definitions of citizenship relate to or shape the rights and benefits of citizenship?

  • Palliative care in humanitarian crises: How can we train and empower palliative care workers operating in disaster-affected communities?

Who can submit a proposal or attend an idea dialogue?

Our Idea Incubation activities are currently geared toward Northwestern faculty, researchers, and skilled practitioners. Relevant experts may be invited to attend these programs. We invite you to propose a topic of interest by completing the idea submission form.

More questions?

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on Northwestern Buffett’s research trajectory.

If you have any remaining unanswered questions, please reach out to Ariel Schwartz at