Fashion as a Grand Challenge

The term “Grand Challenges,” although I had not yet fully read the definition, reminded me of a constant focus in my study – material industries. Believed to be covered under the wings of the SDGs, our global economy is large if not entirely consistent in the material. Textiles and apparel, food and agriculture, and technology being the major three industries that are the nucleus of all material industries. Their respective supply chains cover every issue from climate change to human rights and are abundant in challenges.

For example, in the fashion industry effects and perpetuates environmental degradation, human rights violations, and tamper in good governance practices globally so that anyone could buy a $5 t-shirt and a $15 pair of jeans before it even makes it to the sale rack. I use this to preface that a “Grand Challenge” is just as Branscomb defines as a “technically complex societal problem(s) that have stubbornly defied solution.” To want to solve the challenge of restructuring material economies and industries to do better by the environment, foster job creation that is positive, and aid in good governance practices is a lofty goal to want to reach. According to the United Nation Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, the clothing and textile industry contributes 2.4 trillion dollars to global manufacturing, employs 75 million people worldwide who are mostly women, are responsible for 8-10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the fashion industry, and 500 billion dollars is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and lack of recycling. The fashion industry has an implication on almost all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and therefore I and others agree that the industry itself is a Grand Challenge.

Solutions for this industry and other material economies are not simple by any means. How do we reshape how consumers interact with material economies, how do we restructure economies to be more circular, if circularity is even the answer or a short-term solution, and how would this affect vulnerable populations in the transition periods and in the long-term are all questions that have multiple avenues for foreseeable positive impact if addressed in some collaborative fashion. But, with any Grand Challenge, if industry, government, and other stakeholders are willing to come and work together to use their expert judgment to synthesizes disparate and often conflicting sources of information from their perspectives to produce an integrated picture of success by producing viable solutions the concept of a Grand Challenge may not seem so grand anymore.

https://issues.org/branscomb-4/

https://unfashionalliance.org/

The Global “Grand Challenge” of Inclusive Sustainable Development

When incorporating disability and development together, we run across the “Grand Challenge”. This is a challenge but also an opportunity for the world in which all people with disability are and feel included. Currently, more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability which, in fact, is about 15% of every country’s population in the world. There may be physical impairment, but there are other components to disability like mobility and blind or visually or deaf or hard-of-hearing impaired barriers that people face. This goes to show that at any point in time, anyone can be become disabled. These barriers to such physical impairment can hinder their everyday actions regarding transportation, education, ICTs, employment, and political representation. Grand challenges are very difficult to resolve but they are very important problems.

We should care for this because of the moral rationality to this, because it is the right thing to do. Also, there is an economic rationale which is an universal design and provides accessibility that benefits everyone. Economically, there may be job creation and economic development opportunities are made by addressing the “Grand Challenge”. Additionally, there are legal and policy rationales that incorporates the CRPD—UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is one of the fastest-growing human rights treaty in history. This factors in human rights instruments and development (socioeconomic) instrument. There are many articles within CRPD that demonstrates the shift become medical model to the social justice rights-based model. The United States has not ratified the CRPD and therefore, this becomes a critical time in the United States for people to have a paradigm shift.

The “Grand Challenges” are pretty time-bound and they seem to be ambitious goals but achievable. They aren’t impossible so we should strive to reach these goals. One thing that I’ve learned from this capstone class and about inclusive sustainable development is the fact that this study is very multidisciplinary. From Obama’s administration, there was a shift and from his administration, there was more of a focus on science and technology—a mobilization of our goals. Goals are so pertinent to achieving the global challenge, especially if they are attainable and achievable.

There are many actors involved in achieving the “Grand Challenge” and the UN DESA (Department of Education and Social Affairs), the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights within the Committee on the Rights of Disabilities. The MDGs were started as goals without persons with disabilities. Therefore, SDGs had goals that included the persons with disabilities. Since we saw that there is a high correlation between disability and poverty, we can have development for people with disabilities, but it should definitely include persons with disabilities. The study of inclusive sustainable development is such an interdisciplinary field of study where we find the relationships between these subject matters and need to consider various components and stakeholders for achieving these initiatives and goals.

Grand Challenges

In the 21stCentury, we are faced with a multitude of problems to solve from climate change to wars to dangerous diseases like Ebola. While these problems may seem daunting or even impossible to solve to some, there are many people around the world who see these important issues and decide to take on the challenge. This type of thinking is referred to as Moonshot thinking. This term comes from the American mission to put the first man on the moon despite this feat seeming impossible to many people. This type of motivated and visionary mindset is what is needed to address the Grand Challenges we face today.

As defined by the Obama Administration, Grand Challenges are “ambitious but achievable goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination”. There are a few key elements that a goal must have to be considered a Grand Challenge. First, these goals must think big but still be attainable. This means that setting a realistic time frame in which to solve these problems is a crucial factor. Second, Grand Challenges should be multidisciplinary, bringing together people from different fields as well as the public and private sectors to work together to achieve their goal. Finally, these Grand Challenges need to be compelling and inspiring to capture the public’s imagination. If all these criteria are met, then a goal can be labeled as a Grand Challenge. The Obama Administration took a particular interest in promoting Grand Challenges such as the BRAIN Initiative and the Asteroid Grand Challenge.

Although Grand Challenges have historically been confined to the science and technology fields, in recent years the development field has begun applying the idea of Grand Challenges to focus on ambitious but achievable goals within international development. USAID has promoted several Grand Challenges since 2011 including All Children ReadingSecuring Water for FoodFighting Ebola, and Scaling Off-Grid Energy. These Grand Challenges cover a variety of important issues, and by formulating them as Grand Challenges, USAID is able to bring focus and motivation to these global problems. 

I think that one of the most important impacts of Grand Challenges is their ability to inspire both experts and the public to achieve big goals. Going forward, I think that the US government should refocus on promoting Grand Challenges, particularly those focused on climate change. Climate change is an immense problem that many people feel hopeless about, but I think that creating a series of Grand Challenges to address some of the serious problems of climate change, such as rising sea levels, resiliency after natural disasters, and reliance on fossil fuels, would help refocus and motivate the country to take on these challenges and maintain hope for the future.

https://www.usaid.gov/grandchallenges

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/eop/ostp/grand-challenges

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

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.