Grand Challenges are major problems that international development faces today. They can range from education to healthcare, gender equality to climate change. These are the issues that we are facing today that need to be solved for tomorrow’s children. While these challenges often disproportionately affect people in the Global South, it is the responsibility of the world to solve them.
The conceptualization of Grand Challenges has changed throughout the decades. What used to be country by country problems are now seen as global issues. I think the recognition that all actors should have a seat at the table has greatly impacted this shift in responsibility. Multistakeholder participation is now seen as a key component of implementing any international strategies or programs. By including a variety of actors, the international community is beginning to understand just how connected and interwoven our world is. The problems faced in one country, may be the result of another’s misguided help. Or the issues that one business is facing in implementing a strategy may be better supported with a partnership with similar companies. By connecting these links, we are learning that everyone has played a part in these Grand Challenges and it is going to take the cooperation of many stakeholders to solve them.
While approaches to development have yet to drastically shift on a national policy level or ODA level, individuals, organizations and communities are changing the way development is approached. I think that the MDG’s and the SDG’s have been a unifying factor in shifting the capabilities and programs of many organizations. I think the goals encouraged cooperation among individuals and organizations and greatly improved communication between communities and organizations. The MDG’s were a massive undertaking and I think professionals in the development field realized that they would never be able to achieve them without community input and feedback. While I do not think that all organizations listen to the communities they serve, nor is community engagement a new phenomenon, I think the MDG’s helped put these Global Challenges in perspective and forced people to realize just how large and systemic these problems were. This encouraged more people to look to the local level to make changes from the bottom up. These Grand Challenges can be daunting, however I think the local engagement and community involvement that has been rekindled in light of the MDG’s and SDG’s bodes well for the future of international development.