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.

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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

Grand Challenges

Despite the constant improvement of science and technology and social development, some monumental problems defy solution. These grand challenges can be social, such as inclusivity and equality, technical, like cures for cancer and finding new energy sources, or both. Tom Kalil, formerly of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy described grand challenges as “ambitious but achievable.” Grand challenges should be measurable with defined targets and indicators. Their goals should motivate people, inspire individuals to spend a significant proportion of their lives working to solve these complex issues. Continue reading

Grand Challenges

The numerous large-scale, societal problems that the world faces are known as Grand Challenges. These challenges are faced by individuals and communities’ worldwide and require multifaceted and creative approaches to combat. From ending hunger, to sustainable energy, to developing more inclusive education practices, improving health, reducing the cost of care and more, Grand Challenges are at the forefront of development work. Groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US AID, The US White House, and Grand Challenges Canada, an initiative supported by the Canadian Government, all place emphasis and focus on Grand Challenges and in order to complete the challenges, an emphasis on “moonshot” ideas. Moonshot ideas, a word derived from the US Apollo missions, meaning an ambitious and radical, yet achievable solution, that addresses a huge problem.  The United Nations has also placed a focus on Grand Challenges and “moonshot” ideas creating the SDG goals that attempt to solve 17 Grand Challenges that the UN has outlined, by focusing on numerous aspects of the issues and promoting creative and interdisciplinary ideas.


However, with the focus on Grand Challenges also comes a focus on science and technological innovations as being the moonshot ideas that have the potential of solving the numerous issues. A large amount of funding is put towards creating new vaccines, studying technological efforts that are already in place, inventing new forms of sustainable energy, and while science and technology have the potential to make a great impact, unfortunately, there are shortcomings. As Branscomb discusses in his paper, the emphasis on research is not as effective as governments and independent actors would hope, often producing ideas that are just theoretical and not able to be easily applied. Branscomb argues the need for more of a focus on applied research, to be able to “create knowledge that is as socially useful as it is scientifically meritorious”. Furthermore, I would argue that there is also a need for an emphasis on ideologies and public support in order for Grand Challenges, particularly the SDGs, to make progress.


When we look at the ideas, the Apollo 11 mission, it wasn’t completed and wasn’t successful simply because of government-funded technological innovations made by NASA that allowed for the first humans to reach the moon. Apollo 11 mission was so successful because they had support. NASA and the “Space Race” had many Americans’ full support. In the US, for instance, pushed math and science in schools to get kids interested and publicized the space race heavily. This need for public engagement is necessary with the SDGs in order to create a passion for solving Grand Challenges among the public. In order to ensure that Grand Challenges will continue to be funded, continued to be actively researched, and continue to be in the forefront on peoples’ minds, the individual member of the public needs to feel connected and part of the solution.