The term “Grand Challenge” reflects the concept of a complex issue that has consistently failed to be resolved or addressed properly. While there are a number of different formal definitions of Grand Challenges, Lewis Branscomb defines Grand Challenges as, “…Technically complex societal problems that have stubbornly defied solution.” The consistent failure to solve these issues is often because of a complex web of interconnected smaller issues that can be exceedingly difficult to address all at once. Some of these “Grand Challenges” include inequities in education, access to clean water, and access to healthcare. While exceedingly complex, addressing these Grand Challenges is absolutely paramount to achieving a more developed, equitable, and sustainable world.
Addressing the Grand Challenges facing the international community is also necessary to reaching a number of goals expressed recently by the international community. One the most prominent set of goals currently put forth by the international community are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Seeking to replace the now expired Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs speak to some of the most complex Grand Challenges to date including inequities in education, health, and technologies. Grand challenges are also represented in the topics discussed within different international institutions and conventions including the CRPD.
Within the United States, different government agencies have begun to attempt to address some of the Grand Challenges that face the country. Some of these government agencies include the executive office and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Of course, efforts have also been made to address Grand Challenges outside of the United States as well. Many international institutions have made addressing a plethora of Grand Challenges a key part of their goals via, as previously discussed, the SDGs.
One of the most interesting aspects when exploring the concept of Grand Challenges is how different organizations decide to approach these challenges. As Mikayla noted in her blog post, even within the US government, different agencies attempt to address the Grand Challenges in different ways. At first glance this may appear to over complicate addressing these issues. However, I believe that this is not necessarily as big an issue as one might assume. The different approaches to addressing Grand Challenges reflect the complexity and multi-faceted nature of many of these issues. However, when these different approaches overlap or directly contradict difficulties can arise. Therefore, communication within governments and between members of international institutions is paramount to effectively addressing the Grand Challenges facing the international community.