Building a Grand Challenge Community of Practice

For 20 years, I’ve worked closely with CEOs and senior managers as an executive consultant focusing on challenges related to strategy and innovation. My work has included projects with The World Bank under President James Wolfensohn, the Peace Corp with Director Gaddi Vasquez, senior managers for Royal Dutch Shell, and over 100 engagements with professional societies and trade association CEOs.

For the last six years, one particular type of initiative has garnered my attention, the Grand Challenge, a specific kind of dilemma that is systemic, resistant to superficial remedies, and often papered over given its dizzying complexities and labor-intensive solutions.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on Grand Challenges with:

  • The American Geophysical Union – bringing together scientists, local leaders, and sponsors;
  • The American Nurses Association – measurably improving the health of America’s 4M nurses and, by extension, the country;
  • Inteleos – working to ensure everyone who has an ultrasound device knows what they are doing;
  • CFP Board of Standards’ Center for Financial Planning – improving the number of women and people of color joining the financial planning profession.

Each of these Grand Challenges has been stimulating and propelled me forward. Most recently, working with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute to tackle the stigma of mental illness on a national scale.

My work on Grand Challenges has taught me how challenging it can be to take on a systemic issue. Because of this, I’m embarking on an initiative to bring together practitioners of Grand Challenges. The community will include the leaders who take on Grand Challenges, the consultants who help lead success, and the people who work at all levels to ensure these sticky, systemic, complex, and wicked issues are put at bay for humanity and civilization at large.

At this time in world history, we must understand what it takes to tackle large systemic issues like social justice, climate change, supply chain interruptions, the pandemic, and other problems facing our world.

I am building a community of practice designed for people who understand and are tackling Grand Challenges. I’m looking for researchers, academicians, and those on the front lines battling overwhelming big issues and achieving success where others have failed. If you’re a Grand Challenge practitioner or would like to be, send me an email.

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