Grand Challenges and the SDGs

A “ Grand Challenge” can be described as a challenge that ambitious but achievable, captures the publics imagination, and requires many different disciplines to solve. Grand challenges currently include challenges of renewable energy, challenges of public health, and other challenges which have captured the imagination and labor of many people. Grand Challenges require “moonshot thinking” which describes taking a chance and trying to creating exploring new ideas even when nobody has tried it before. Moonshot thinking is named after one of the greatest examples of a Grand Challenge: the moon landing of 1969. No one knew how to get to the moon, it had never been done before, but they still attempted and worked across disciplines, and eventually we got to the moon. Moonshot thinking encourages people to try the impossible in the hopes that grand challenges will be solved. The concept of grand challenges is important for this class because many challenges in the realm of development such as ending poverty and hunger are possible but very ambitious. There are many different organizations working towards these goals in the hopes of making the world a better place.

The United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Sustainable Development Goals to provide a framework for solving some of the most persistent grand challenges that exist today. The Millennium Development goals and Sustainable Development Goals s deal with such topics as health, education, equality, and protecting the environment. The goals are ambitious, but not impossible, and require new ways of thinking in order for them to be achieved. While the goals themselves are Grand Challenges, there is another challenge included within them: how to make the goals a reality for every member of the population, not just the populations that are usually included in development initiatives. In order for the grand challenges of the SDGs to truly be solved they must be solved for all populations including older persons and persons with disabilities. Including marginalized populations such as persons with disabilities is a grand challenge within itself because they have traditionally been excluded from many institutions and few institutions and systems have been built with people with disabilities in mind. However, through technological advances that allow for more participation, collaboration, and moonshot thinking, the achievement of the SDGs that include everyone, especially marginalized populations, are possible and within reach. Our projects will contribute to the moonshot thinking that is making these goals and the inclusion within these goals a reality.