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The Management of Grand Challenges

  • Teacher(s):   S.Vogt  
  • Course given in: English
  • ECTS Credits: 6 credits
  • Schedule: Spring Semester 2021-2022, 4.0h. course (weekly average)
  •  sessions
  • site web du cours course website
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Societies are increasingly grappling with grand challenges such as climate change, corruption, poverty, gender inequality, and land degradation. Grand challenges are wicked problems in the sense that they are global problems that must be addressed through coordinated and collaborative efforts by multiple stakeholders to act together to effect change.

The course will cover the following items:

  1. Examine the complexity of grand challenges and being able to analyse the role of different stakeholders in reaching the sustainable development goals.
  2. Examine the psychological, behavioural, and cultural mechanisms that support socially harmful behaviours,
  3. Examine the importance of data to tackle grand challenges - specifically causal insights.
  4. Allow students to form groups and develop novel proposals for confronting a specific grand challenge.
  5. The focus will be on agriculture’s contribution towards sustainable development and the UN’s Agenda 2030.


Weeks 1 to 4 will consist of lectures with classroom discussions. For the remainder of the term, students will work in small groups on a specific grand challenge. Students will meet regularly among themselves to work out the project and they will meet regularly as groups with the instructor. Projects will be presented to the class near the end of the term. The final assignment will consist of a proposal for implementing and evaluating an initiative to tackle the grand challenge in question.

Learning objectives

  • To be able to evaluate objectively the multi-dimensional impact, opportunities and challenges associated with grand challenges.
  • To be able to work collaboratively with others and participate jointly in problem-solving and decision-making processes.
  • To be able to develop solutions to grand challenges using behavioural insights.
  • To be able to develop empirical studies that provide causal insights into development issues.
  • To be able to embrace complexities when engaging in the practice of sustainable development.
  • To be able to critically analyse and assess reports and other sources of information pertaining to grand challenges and sustainable development goals.


George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., and Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6), 1880–1895.

Glennerster, R. and Kudzai, T. (2013). Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide. Princeton University Press.

Sachs, J. D., Schmidt-Traub, G., Mazzucato, M., Messner, D., Nakicenovic, N., and Rockstr ̈om, J. (2019). Six transformations to achieve the sustainable development goals. Nature Sustainability, 2(9), 805–814.

UnitedNations (2020). Sustainable development goals report 2020.

WorldBank (2015). World development report 2015: Mind, society, and behavior.


First attempt

Without exam (cf. terms)  

Students will be evaluated based on their oral presentations, their comments on the presentations of others, and final written proposals.

Students will develop a proposal tackling a specific grand challenge (analyse the problem, propose solutions applying behavioural insights, and propose an empirical causal study).


Without exam (cf. terms)  

Students will develop a proposal tackling a specific grand challenge (analyse the problem, propose solutions applying behavioural insights, and propose an empirical causal study).

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