Skip to main content

Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

Grand Challenges:

Spotlight Reports 2021

Updating the Grand Challenges

These working papers follow up the Election 2020 reports produced by Academy Fellows and also document some illustrative actions underway at the state and local levels. These papers are a work-in-progress that will be expanded upon in 2022, especially through a greater focus on non-federal actions.

Managing Technological Changes

Technology in the Digital Age offers a great opportunity for the government to better serve its citizens and solve some of the government’s “wicked problems” more quickly and effectively, but first, public administrators must ensure that they address the multitude of risks to citizens’ economic, security, and privacy interests. Throughout the twenty-first century and especially in the past few years, the threats to the data security of American public and private firms have increased. State and non-state actors have targeted oil pipelines, water treatment plants, and even data platforms of federal agencies in attempts to gain material resources and information.

Protect and Advance Democracy

The US derives its strength from democratic principles, and it has protected and improved upon
them to build a more perfect union over time. Looking into a future global environment that is
increasingly complex and always changing, the U.S. must not lose sight of its foundation. It

  • Ensure that its own elections are fair and free of foreign interference;
  • Secure the ability and opportunity for every eligible citizen to vote;
  • Deliver services to the public consistently, efficiently, and effectively;
  • Develop its human talent through workforce programs and advanced hiring practices to ensure the quality of its public servants;
  • Enhance public governance and engagement structures to harness the insights of the public and deliver the best public services; and
  • Manage in an interconnected world, and partner with likeminded countries to deter those that seek to undermine these democratic principles.

Strengthening Social and Economic Development

The United States is facing unprecedented stresses as a nation–– ones that ultimately demand collective action, trust, and community-building across the public and private sectors. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was forced to grapple with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Many members of the community have been living through immense loss, rising unemployment, and housing and food insecurity. As the United States wrestles with these complex issues, it must:

  • Incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into policies and make a more equitable nation;
  • Reduce food insecurity;
  • Provide meaningful work for all Americans;
  • Rebuild intergovernmental relations and resiliency in communities; and
  • Build a stronger fiscal foundation.

Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Ensuring environmental sustainability continues to be a significant challenge to communities around the globe. In 2021 alone, the U.S. has seen several natural disasters generated or amplified by drained natural resources and accelerated climate change including:

  • Droughts and heatwaves in the American West;
  • Severe winter storms across the Midwest and Northeast;
  • Severe floods across multiple states affecting both rural and metropolitan areas including those in Tennessee, Louisiana, and New York;
  • Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, and California; and
  • A violent hurricane season.

Because these trends will most likely continue into the foreseeable future, the U.S. must engage in mitigation and adaptation actions, secure and properly use its natural resources, and modernize its water systems to deliver clean water to all communities and to drain stormwater.