A significant problem in most urban areas that is widely recognized and definitely within the grasp of the private and public sector to remedy, is the mismanagement of waste, and trash. Many areas of our major cities have scenic, beautiful and historic architecture and parks, but are heavily littered. This polluted landscape is a drag on the mental health and social well being of all who see it. A grand challenge would be to offer a nationwide program for young people, perhaps high school juniors or seniors in conjunction with city officials or mayors to beautify the neighborhoods. An incentive or a prize could be offered such as a scholarship, or monetary prize for a block by block plan in different neighborhoods to clean up, repair, improve and beautify the environment with a winner being announced nationally. Advertisement that engaged youth would be key and would require a national branding campaign. The Challenge would be to change the mind set of fellow citizens who currently accept the situation. “”Ugliness is so grim,” Lady Bird Johnson once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”
That belief — that beauty can improve the mental health of a society — is a grand challenge that could bring other lasting effects on the people involved, i.e., youth or city officials that become engaged in the restoration efforts. Everyone involved could benefit, from donors, and sponsors, competitors and participants, to the average Joe sitting on a park bench.