The theme: Global Cities, Global Challenges

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Can you solve a global challenge?

The theme of the Vice-Chancellor's Challenge 2020 is ‘Global Cities, Global Challenges.’

An increasingly urbanised population presents many challenges, and these are reflected in communities around the globe. From air pollution to community cohesion, from urban infrastructure to healthy living, these issues cannot be solved by the sciences, social sciences, or arts and humanities alone. Global challenges will persist unabated if we are not prepared to take a multidisciplinary approach.

Here are just some of the challenges affecting global cities that you and your groups could explore:

Air pollution

Do you have a simple solution for healthier and less polluted cities?

The challenge: Only 20% of the urban population live in areas that comply with World Health Organisation air quality guidelines. WHO also attribute some 3.8 million premature deaths annually to outdoor (ambient) air pollution. It will require the expertise of atmospheric scientists, urban designers, engineers, medics and more to truly understand and tackle the causes and effects of air pollution. 

Infrastructure and sustainability

How can urban infrastructure enable productive, sustainable, and inclusive cities?

The challenge: In cities, we need to connect to thrive. People, energy, water, and waste all need to move safely, swiftly, and cleanly to meet the needs of growing urban populations and the globally connected cities they inhabit. 

Diversity and inclusion

How can we make cities work for the most marginalised?

The challenge: Cities are often seen as places of opportunity – but that opportunity is not equally accessible to all. The UN Sustainable Development Goals state that economic growth alone is not sufficient to reduce poverty; growth must be inclusive, and involve all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental. These three strands must be linked if we are to effect real change for the most marginalised people.

Democracy and participation

How can we give individuals and communities strong voice in the future of their city?

The challenge: Globally, more countries are holding elections than ever before. Yet electoral manipulation and violence remains a major concern, especially in newly formed democracies. Meanwhile, established and emerging democracies alike are adjusting to a new era of fake news and populist politics. In this context, citizens need to be empowered to become active participants in civil society.

Healthy urban living

Can you find a new way to tackle urban health challenges?

The challenge: Urban living presents a distinctive set of health challenges. Obesity, respiratory problems, and infectious disease all associated with urban lifestyles. The issue is not confined to physical health. Studies suggest that the risk of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are all higher among people living in cities. Despite being co-located with millions of other people, urban inhabitants often experience more loneliness, isolation, and stress. The solutions are as likely to be found in urban design and cultural change as they are in medicine. 

Culture and community

Can you find a way to turn tolerance between communities into active understanding, engagement, and inclusivity?

The challenge: Many cities have a history of structural racism and discrimination, with impacts that continue to be felt today. Others pride themselves on their diversity, but still have many communities that are isolated from each other. As we seek to understand and interpret our cities’ pasts and to reimagine their future, the soft power of culture presents a powerful tool for building tolerance and engagement between communities.

I've chosen a challenge... What next?

Having joined a group with students in other subject areas at the launch event, you will be required to utilise your own disciplinary perspectives to propose a way in which one of the above challenges can be addressed. Responses should be grounded in academic research and should be developed in a compelling and engaging manner. In addressing one of the above global challenges, you should ensure that consideration is given to the practical implications of developing your ideas and consider the necessary steps in implementing them.

What interventions or innovation would address your chosen global challenge? What policy interventions would be necessary? Do you need businesses involved? If so, how would you incentivise their involvement?

Find out more about how the competition works.




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