Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
The Metropolitan Planning Council in the U.S. will build a website to push back against the myth of "good" and "bad" neighborhoods - dominant narratives that are value judgments, which help perpetuate inequity. Aided by a long history of racial and economic segregation, racialized policies and practices in many cities have systematically deprived communities of color of equitable investment. By centering resident voice - particularly the voices of residents in segregated, low-income communities of color - this effort will shift the way these neighborhoods are conceptualized, focusing on resilience, social bonds, and other themes that emerge. These powerful narratives will further the case for investment in chronically disinvested individuals and communities.
The Young Women's Christian Association of San Antonio in the U.S. will run a multimedia public awareness campaign by producing videos of days in the lives of women of color working in hospitality, caregiving, and food service industries in the city. These videos will be used as a platform to answer the questions often posed by those who misunderstand the causes of poverty, such as "Why can't they just get a job?" In partnership with a local community foundation and radio station, they will present the stories as short films in movie theaters and in radio talk shows to explore a series of "Why can't they just…" questions.
The Center for Popular Democracy's Fair Workweek Initiative in the U.S. will run a digital campaign to tell the real-life stories of how volatile working hours and other business practices harm families' financial security and well-being. The majority of Americans are paid hourly and are not given set working hours. This makes it difficult for families to plan for necessities such as child-care or pursue further education, leading to poverty, instability, and a feeling of powerlessness. These practices are prevalent in low-wage jobs (often considered "essential"), occupied by workers of color, especially women of color, and perpetuate racial and economic inequities in economic opportunity. Center for Popular Democracy will recruit storytellers, including workers impacted by just-in-time scheduling, and will pair their stories with data to illustrate a larger trend, and highlight how racial bias ensures workers of color experience disproportionate impacts. They will tailor the content to a variety of audiences and evaluate their reactions to different formats.
The Arkansas Asset Funders Network in the U.S. will organize grasstops (e.g. business and banking, philanthropic and policy) champions to advance an agenda focused on Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed (ALICE) individuals. Efforts will highlight class-based narratives around the value and worthiness of hourly wage employment and the importance of asset creation and protection for Arkansas workers. Ambassadors will especially highlight ALICE households without a "work from home" option: those individuals who keep our businesses running, prepare and handle our food, care for our children and our sick, and keep our public spaces clean. Working together, they will build champions for this population, highlighting how the ALICE juggle to make ends meet and need equitable asset building options and protections for the future.
Brandeis University and Boston University in the U.S. will gather and disseminate the life histories of people who have suffered economic decline to highlight the dynamic nature of the underlying causes and better inspire empathy. Economic and social decline often lurches in fits and starts over a lifetime, driven by diverse, interrelated factors such as family resources and relationships. However, most studies on social mobility focus on a specific moment in time. As an alternative approach, they will conduct interviews with men and women from diverse backgrounds who have experienced an economic shock to assess their personal, familial, and neighborhood settings; their emotions and key events; and how they relate to their economic circumstances over time. They will also harness the capacity of young people to change public opinions to develop effective strategies to disseminate the stories to their peers.
The Center for Public Interest Communications and the Radical Communicators Network (The Center and RadComms) in the U.S. are working together to change the narrative of poverty by supporting those most affected in telling their stories. The Center and RadComms will first conduct a narrative power analysis to characterize the harmful narrative and underlying assumptions that need changing, then provide frontline activists with science-based communications tools to produce and develop counternarratives that can replace harmful and inaccurate ones. These resources can be used to promote a new narrative on poverty that recognizes the conditions responsible for the problem and the voices of those most affected.
The U.S. Dream Academy in the U.S. will produce a series of accounts of the lived experiences of children of incarcerated parents faced with poverty and highlight their resilience in overcoming adversity. More than 2.2 million children have incarcerated parents and live largely in poverty. Parental incarceration is often associated with shame and stigma, and ultimately leads to poor education and mental health, particularly for minority communities. They will pilot their approach in Baltimore and build a platform of student-directed stories that capture their challenges and successes, and recruit influential people, such as celebrities and faith-based leaders, to help amplify the voices of young people and broaden the distribution channels. At the same time, US Dream will convene a diverse national group of experts and influencers to identify and promote scalable solutions to mitigate group stigmatization based on race.
The YMCA of the Coosa Valley in the U.S. will bring together diverse groups in small Christian communities under a common goal to overcome economic and racial divides. There is a strong belief that an individual's personal choices cause their economic circumstances: for example, that wealth comes from having faith in God. To change these misconceptions, the YMCA and Savannah Miles will partner with local pastors to present common Christian callings on eliminating poverty and racism to members of local churches. They will also provide education and training to build relationships between diverse church members and equip them with skills and tools to collectively act to overcome shared challenges. Finally, they will form a council that will meet to discuss broad-based issues and build a community action and dissemination plan.
Sojourners in the U.S. will feature the voices of young people and marginalized communities in short films and articles shared on their digital and print platforms to change stereotypes about the causes of poverty, from one of personal responsibility to one that highlights structural and historic barriers to economic mobility. Sojourners, whose platforms have a wide audience of leaders and communities of faith, will produce stories and other learning tools that demonstrate the impacts of gender, race, class, as well as systems and policies, on economic opportunity to encourage people from different backgrounds to act together and drive change.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, together with visual artist and educator Zun Lee, M.D., and the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition in the U.S. will tell the stories of traumatic loss, resilience, and quests for economic mobility of young black men in Baltimore to recast them in the national consciousness as human beings deserving of dignity and investment rather than as social problems. In the last decade, the team has documented the unequal burdens of violence and grief faced by this community. They will recruit young men to take part in a Photovoice project and to complete ethnographic interviews about their life course. In addition, the team will employ machine learning to identify hidden barriers to their economic mobility. These approaches will be combined to produce a dynamic digital exhibit that centers the pain and promise of these survivors of violence to engage citizens and leaders in transformative dialogue that affirms the humanity of young black men and deepens awareness about root causes and barriers to their economic mobility.