Johns Hopkins Symposium on Free Market Solutions to Urban Grand Challenges

April 22-24, 2019

Registration for the Symposium is now open. The $50 registration fee includes meals: breakfast both days, lunch, a buffet dinner on Tuesday April 23, and takeaway box lunch on Wednesday, April 24. Register Now.

Grand challenges are ambitious goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems, and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination. Grand challenges have been declared in mathematics, physics, medicine, engineering, agriculture, public health, and global conflict. By their very nature, they share similar characteristics. The problems are systemic. The solutions are multidisciplinary and integrated, and require the participation of multiple stakeholders. 

Closing the gap between the economic haves and have-nots is an enduring grand challenge. In terms of business economics, the poverty gap prevents human capital from achieving full productivity, attenuates societal consumption, and thus limits business growth.  A particularly acute form of the problem is urban poverty. According to the World Bank, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by the year 2050, up from 58 percent in 2018.  High unemployment, school dropout, violent crime, stress-induced mental and physiological disease, and malnutrition are the hallmarks of urban poverty. For example, at the same time that 33.4 percent of adults in urban centers are obese, malnutrition among the urban poor continues to rise.  To solve these problems, civil society has traditionally looked to government and public institutions for solutions. However, hollowed inner-city cores accompanying rising urban poverty have resulted in diminished public finance and the capacity for local governments to respond.

This symposium aims to bring together scholars from business studies, public health, nursing, engineering, and economics to present their research on market-based solutions to these urban grand challenges. Theoretical and empirical research will focus on the conditions for activating and sustaining entrepreneurial innovation, bookended by case studies on success and failure.


Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
Harbor East Campus
100 International Drive, 24th Floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21202 

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Phillip Phan, Alonzo and Virginia Decker Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Registration fee: $50