Brian Breslin

Grand Challenges Facing Miami

miami skyline

The grand challenges, on a micro level.

A number of organizations around the world are working on indexing all of the big world changing problems affecting the human race. These problems range from conflict to water access, to sustainable agriculture, to mitigating pollution, and so forth. The issue with these grand challenges is that an individual might often feel helpless or useless when it comes to tackling them because of their sheer grandeur.

If you read any number of cliched articles by some middle aged business reporter about millennials and how they are in the workplace (eye roll), they all talk about how millennials only want to work on something where they can have an impact or a cause. The challenge with wanting to have an impact is that often times we see these overwhelmingly large challenges and don’t know where to start. Society hasn’t really taught the average person under 40 how to even begin to tackle such large problems. So let’s start by breaking down these grand problems and looking at them from a local level.

There was a fascinating podcast from the Ted Radio Hour the other day about how cities are the new center for innovation and impact. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to impact a million people, you had to go to an entire state, sometimes a country to find a million people. Now in some urban areas, you can find a million people in 1 square mile (see: Mumbai, Manila, Lagos, etc). Let’s take the approach that we need to identify what our grand challenges are for our local communities first; because if we can solve our local communities, that impact will compound regionally.

Given my affiliation with Miami, I thought we could start by looking at what the biggest challenges are for our community here. This way we can start by looking at the potential solutions and not wait around for someone else to solve them. So in no particular order, here are my initial Miami Challenges.

Where are these challenges?

– Traffic
– Education
– Economic Opportunities
– Housing
– Pollution
– Energy
– Crime
– Government

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, so feel free to add them into the comments.

The first step I believe in tackling each problem is to start thinking about the Whys. Toyota famously pioneered a concept called the 5 Why technique. It forces you to work back on a problem and reverse engineer it until you reach the original root cause. Eventually, we would get to the root cause which would let us work back towards the solution.

What I’m proposing is we start inventorying all these problems and also applying some group design thinking on them to figure out what is the starting point for solving them. We need to rethink the way our community solves its problems if we want to turn Miami (or any of our cities) into world class places to live.

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