Grand Challenges and the Multi-Stakeholder Approach

The concept of “Grand Challenges” is manifested in both the Millennium Development Goals and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals. Both represent difficult, yet achievable challenges that our world faces. In fact, the failure to meet the Millennium Development Goal’s represents exactly how ambitious “Grand Challenges” are. They are crosscutting issues that impact individuals at global levels. These issues are manifested in international frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. These grand challenges are meant to mobilize resources and empower communities. However, in order to do so, goals must first be established. As Tom Kalil stated in his speech delivered to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in order to tackle grand challenges, it is essential that clear goals are established. By raising this point, Kalil is making a larger assertion about the implementation of international frameworks addressing these grand challenges. Kalil asserts, “grand challenges should have measurable targets for success and timing of completion.” Because of the nature of grand challenges, these important issues not only need the attention of the international community, but also a commitment to the implementation and monitoring of these grand challenges. Without an international commitment to the implementation and monitoring of international frameworks, not much headway will be accomplished, other than acknowledging that grand challenges exist. A key example of this is in the international communities failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals by its’ deadline. The failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals fostered the understanding of the importance of implementation and monitoring mechanisms, in the efforts toward inclusive sustainable development. Another crucial step toward tackling grand challenges is in how these challenges are defined.

Interestingly enough, Lewis Branscomb, Tom Kalil, USAID, and the White House, define grand challenges in respect to scientific and technological innovation. While I do believe that technological innovation is integral, I do not believe that innovation is the sole factor. Instead, it is my opinion that both multistakeholderism and innovation are integral to tackling grand challenges. A multi-stakeholder commitment to grand challenges is essential because it brings together a variety of stakeholders that bring their respective expertise along with them, thus fostering conversation and innovation. In my opinion, bringing key stakeholders together to facilitate conversation about these global grand challenges is key, as multistakeholderism fosters innovation. However, the Lewis Branscomb, Tom Kalil, USAID, and White House sources do not take into account the importance of multistakeholderism as a means to address global grand challenges.