How a Forum Works

Photograph of Jeh Johnson at a CWP Forum

Every Forum brings together approximately three dozen experts with a range of substantive and institutional perspectives to discuss a major challenge facing humanity.

Participants in the Forum begin by discussing aspects of the challenge that have not been solved by existing approaches and are fundamental to achieving significant progress. The participants then split up into working groups where they evaluate specific project proposals they have submitted in advance on how to address different facets of the challenge. At the Forum’s conclusion, participants reconvene to learn about the different proposals discussed in the groups, and to provide their feedback on the ideas that most merit further development by Columbia World Projects. The process is intended not only to evaluate such ideas, but also to give participants an opportunity to interrogate and improve ideas raised during the course of the meeting.

Project proposals and other key insights from the Forum are detailed in a report, which is reviewed by the participants and published by Columbia World Projects. A list of previous Forum reports can be found here.

After the Forum: Advisory Committee, design phase and implementation

The Forum report is presented, together with summaries of the individual project ideas that received the greatest support, to the Columbia World Projects Advisory Committee — a group consisting of Columbia faculty and researchers, in addition to practitioners from outside the University. The Committee reviews the project ideas that emerge with significant support from the Forum to determine whether they meet our criteria and are worthy of further development.

Following the Advisory Committee’s review, ideas that are determined to merit further development move on to a rigorous design phase, during which the project’s potential leaders work with Columbia World Projects staff and outside experts to identify deliverables and performance indicators, a timeline for implementation, a funding strategy, and a project team. Using this information, the leadership of Columbia World Projects makes a final decision on whether or not to fund the project.

Once approved, project teams work with Columbia World Projects staff to implement the project in the field.