Sustainable, inclusive cities: a grand challenge

When I was considering how to begin my capstone proposal, I didn’t know where to start. Envisioning a process for writing a framework that countries can follow to develop sustainable, accessible and inclusive cities seemed like a great idea when I began this class, but now, as the prospect of actually creating this thing is daunting. I decided to make a “mind map” (something that my professors had us do when I was abroad) to clear my mind and put some ideas on paper. What I ended up with was a spider-like diagram that was barely legible, containing only some of the parts that an inclusive sustainable city needs. My page was full, but I could still see things that were missing: what about the governance feedback loops? Should I spaces for community gardens? Will there be room for new businesses and entrepreneurs to make a living in the city? It struck me then that, although I had considered that urban planning for inclusivity and sustainability was a challenge, I had not considered how much of a grand challenge this would be.

When we’re talking about sustainable urban planning, the normal aspects of “green” living come to mind: parks, street trees, rooftop gardens, etc. When discussing inclusive planning, other details of the urban landscape pop up: ample ramps, elevators in all buildings and public transit stops, cross walks that vibrate and tell you when to cross the street. The problem is that these two things are seldom thought of in tandem. Sustainability and inclusivity are often placed in two separate camps and addressed by separate groups of people.

If we conceptualize the main problem as population growth and climate change, which are also interconnected, grand challenges, it is easier to see how both inclusivity and sustainability need to be integrated. As population growth continues, more and more people will live in cities; cities that need to be denser and well-built. Building well means accounting for everyone’s needs and ensuring that all urban dwellers have the ability to choose what kind of life they want to lead. In the context of climate change, cities need to be resilient and built to withstand more frequent and intense weather events, and an integral part of this resiliency is making sure that people have access to necessities like healthcare, healthy food, transportation, and education.

Designing cities to be both sustainable and inclusive means reorganizing and rebuilding them better, not bigger. Persons with disabilities have been left out of the sustainability conversation for too long, and we cannot continue along this path if we hope to address this grand challenge. Everyone has a part to play, everyone has a voice. This is a challenge we must address together.

https://wuf.unhabitat.org/

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg11

Advertisements

Grand Challenges

            A Grand Challenge is a complex, ambiguous term that embodies the objectives of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. While Tom Khalil of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy claims that there is no definition for what constitutes as a Grand Challenge, he provides some guidance for specific characteristics of Grand Challenges (Pescovitz, 2012). Continue reading

Global Grand Challenges

A Global Grand Challenge. At first, this phrase seems as if it is proposing a daunting task. The words themselves emphasize the utter importance of a challenge or issue that has been posed by the international community. Yet, global grand challenges are key to inclusive sustainable development that strive to make the world a better place for all people. As discussed in class, a grand challenge is a large-scale, multi-dimensional challenge that the global community faces and attempts to solve through collaborative research and technology. Technology plays a large role in global grand challenges because it is viewed as an innovative tool that has the potential to solve some of the world’s greatest issues. Some of the grand challenges the global community faces range from creating new jobs and eliminating hunger to improving health care and developing new ways of teaching and learning. These global grand challenges of development focus primarily on “moon shot” ideas, or enthusiastic yet attainable goals that were derived from the Apollo missions to the moon in 1969. Similarly, Branscomb and Kalil’s research explicates that governments aim to focus societal attention on pressing challenges that are linked to well-defined societal goals that are ambitious, yet achievable.

The Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals are considered two grand challenges that were brought forth to the international community. The MDGs, as we have discussed, were created to tackle the global issues of poverty. Essentially, the MDGs posed a grand challenge to the development community to push everyone towards eradicating poverty universally. However, the MDGs were critiqued on their lack of context, lack of equitable approach to timeline, and lack of inclusivity, which ultimately affected their impact. Despite this, the SDGs were created in 2015 to pose yet another global grand challenge that attempted to respond to the critiques of the MDGs in order to become more inclusive. The SDGs expanded into 17 goals and allowed countries to customize these goals to each of their own contexts. It also integrated the non-profit and non-governmental sector into the conversations, which brought new expertise and engagement to the table. Ultimately, the SDGs used the momentum of the MDGs to engage the international community in conversation and action for inclusive sustainable development.

The Global “Grand Challenges” of Inclusive Sustainable Development

The definition of Grand Challenges, their inclusion in the hard and social sciences, and their evolution when it comes to development approaches are fundamental to understanding the need and long term goals for inclusive sustainable development. Given away in the name, Grand Challenges go beyond issues on the individual and local level, but the persistent issues that continue to hinder long-term international development.

Continue reading

The Grand Challenge of Inclusive Sustainable Development

Summary: Grand challenges have shaped the way countries set out to achieve their goals. Grand challenges are ambitious, time-limited, and clearly defined. The Millennium Development Goals were an incredible start at setting collaborative worldwide grand challenges, and the Sustainable Development Goals will continue the quest for sustainable development in a more inclusive manner. Continue reading

Grand Challenges

Global Grand Challenges are the interdisciplinary, large-scale challenges we, as a global community, face and attempt to solve through research, science and technology, and other collaborative efforts. These challenges are posed by governments and nonprofits alike to achieve development goals by solving pressing issues such as climate change, global hunger, and major disease epidemics. Continue reading