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Grand Challenges!

Last Thursday I attended UCLA’s University-Led Grand Challenge workshop. A grand experience!

What is a grand challenge?  A Grand Challenge is a big, bold, socially beneficial goal that addresses a systemic problem through collaboration and joint leadership. For a more detailed description, see my recent paper with Julie Jordan Avritt.

In attendance were major educational institutions that included UCLA, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Wisconsin, University of Oregon, Indiana University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and many others. Over 20 in all.

I learned that Grand Challenges come in all sizes. One university was applying for a $500m grant and another was handing out $25,000 grants to students with ideas for Grand Challenges.

I learned that there is a wide continuum of clarity. UCLA, for example, promises to make Los Angeles sustainable by 2050 in both energy and water.  Very clear. Other universities had designated areas of research, but not gotten more specific than that. I am not sure I would call that a Grand Challenge, myself – but, they do!

And I met a group of amazing people engaged in making our world a better place through large-scale programs.

I am considering my own Grand Challenge, an initiative I would like to create. I have some good ideas and will let you know when I have something to offer.

What can you do this week to make our world a better place? Perhaps you know of a Grand Challenge you can contribute to with your time, energy, or money?


“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”
-Ronald Reagan