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Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders

December 13, 2017

P1_Edible-InsectThe face of global development is changing. Shifting priorities, new organizations, new technologies — the landscape of the field is in flux. And in this era of sustainable development, a new generation of global leaders is poised to play a leading role in catalyzing change.

The Challenges Ahead

Despite decades of progress, the global community continues to grapple with urgent challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. Global trends such as urbanization, income inequality, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly are driving the scale and intensity of these challenges, forcing us to think differently and more collaboratively. The United Nations2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is emblematic of this changing landscape. The message is clear: business as usual is no longer an option.

In the area of global nutrition, these trends are already having a profound impact. Malnutrition remains one of the most pervasive challenges and is the leading underlying cause of child mortality worldwide. As the planet becomes more populated and prosperous, food production and consumption patterns are changing and stressing our fragile natural resources. With the global population on track to hit 9.8 billion people by 2050, the field of nutrition is ripe for innovation. The task at hand is significant, if not daunting: How do we sustainably meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population?

To address hard problems like these, we need to consider new approaches and sustainable solutions. The health and livelihoods of many vulnerable communities — and the planet we all share — depend on it.

Engaging Emerging Leaders

Harnessing the insights and talents of the next generation of global leaders will be critical to unlocking innovation for sustainable development. With an eye to the future, early-career professionals can help us examine problems in new ways, elevate diverse perspectives, and surface creative new ideas. We should not underestimate the value of the entrepreneurial energy that early-career professionals bring to the table. By questioning age-old assumptions and confronting problems with analytic, data-driven vigor, they can help us chip away at some of the barriers that have slowed our progress.

For PATH, the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has provided an invaluable opportunity to engage future leaders from around the world in tackling some of today's most persistent challenges. From investigating the potential of edible insects as a sustainable animal-source food, to unpacking the relationship between tobacco use and nutrition outcomes, to exploring the many synergies between agriculture and nutrition, our team's Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows have drawn on their diverse backgrounds to help PATH facilitate bold cross-sectoral solutions aimed at improving nutrition for people around the world.

And while we have valued the creativity and contributions of our fellows, they have gained professional development opportunities to advance their careers. During their time at PATH, our fellows have developed skills, cultivated their networks, made friends, and completed a project that addresses the next generation of health and development challenges. But the time our fellows spend with PATH is only a small part of their professional journeys, as they each embark on careers focused on creating a brighter future for people and the planet.

Investing in the Future

The scope and scale of the challenges we face necessitate immediate action. Addressing these challenges will require new ideas, creative thinking, curiosity, and humility. Our future will soon be reality for the next cohort of global development leaders. To achieve the aspirational goals we've set for ourselves for 2030, let's make sure that the next-generation thinkers of today have a seat at the table.

Katharine_kreis_for_PhilanTopicKatharine Kreis is director of strategic initiatives and lead, nutrition innovation at PATH.

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