The Global “Grand Challenge” of Inclusive Sustainable Development

According to USAID, The Grand Challenges for Development initiative is based on two integral beliefs about international development which include:


  • “Science and technology, when applied appropriately, can have transformational effects; and
  • Engaging the world in the quest for solutions is critical to instigating breakthrough progress”


In addition, these grand challenges place “global attention and resources on specific, well-defined international development problems, and promote innovative approaches, processes and solutions to solving them.” We understand how USAID describes their approach as engaging with “non-traditional solvers such as businesses, researchers, and scientists around critical development problems in a variety of ways through partnerships, prizes, challenges grant funding, crowdsourcing, and more to identify innovations that work.”

Moreover, USAID places eight Grand Challenges for Development:

  1. Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development
  2. Combating Zika and Future Threats
  3. Fighting Ebola
  4. Securing Water for Food
  5. Saving Lives at Birth
  6. All Children Reading
  7. Powering Agriculture
  8. Making All Voices Count

The second and eighth areas are both integral in my final project with the Kenyan non-governmental organization Umande Trust. The organization focuses on access to water rights and sanitation while working to improve the livelihoods of community members in the informal settlement of Kibera. Their work highly relies on sustainability and connects well to the work of USAID in terms of “looking for scientific and technological innovations to more effectively use and manage the water required to produce food in developing and emerging countries.” The USAID deems three areas as “critical to reducing water scarcity in the food value chain:”

  1. Water reuse and efficiency
  2. Water capture and storage, and
  3. Salinity

Umande Trust partners with Bankable Frontiers, a strategic international private sector consultancy firm to create The Bio-Center Initiative has currently installed over 52 bio-centers which serve as service points which helped to improve access to affordable sanitation, convert waste into biogas and fertilizer for urban greening along with providing income generation and access to information to community-based enterprises.

The Bio-Center Initiative combines the resources of a civil society agency, Umande Trust, and Bankable Frontiers, a strategic international private sector consultancy firm, to create and improve bio-centers in Nairobi and Kisumu. These 52+ bio-centers serve as multi-purpose service points, designed to improve access to decent and affordable sanitation, convert human waste into clean energy (biogas) and fertilizer for urban greening, and provide income generation and access to information to community-based enterprises.