The Challenge 2050 Project at the University of Florida

We believe in the power of human beings to change the world for the better. Aware, connected, creative human beings make innovative and inspired decisions. We cultivate the capacity for adaptive leadership and social responsibility in the next generation of global change-makers.

Help us reach our funding goal!

Current Funding50%

We are in a period of rapid globalization and change.

Increasing, ever-changing demands are being placed on agricultural and environmental systems worldwide. Accounting for agricultural production, energy consumption, environmental impact, and several other variables will be key if we aspire to sustain the health and well-being more than 9.6 billion people by 2050. To address these problems, we will need leaders and complex adaptive problem solvers who can think broadly and boldly. However, our current education and professional training systems are focused on specific disciplines, and linear thinking. We lack the systems thinking and leadership necessary for addressing the global challenges and complex problems we face.

This is the charge of the Challenge 2050 Project — to develop human capacity to meet the needs associated with a population projected to exceed 9.6 billion by the year 2050.

Through an integrated process which differentiates the University of Florida and IFAS from other preeminent institutions, interdisciplinary students, faculty, industry partners, and policy-makers come together to meet the needs of our dynamic societies globally. Through innovative dialogue, initiatives, coursework, research, and advocacy efforts, we create a foundation for addressing the challenge.

In addition to engaging industry in partnerships with innovative initiatives involving students, the Challenge 2050 Project also provides training and professional development opportunities for building industry leadership capacity across the five systems and social sectors.

Learn more about our faculty and staff

Our mission is holistically address and mitigate the factors associated with global population fluctuation. The Challenge 2050 Project aims to achieve this mission by increasing our human capacity globally to sustainably address current and future needs. We will leverage UF institutional strengths in science and technology, leadership, innovation, health, education, and entrepreneurship in collaboration with strategic partners worldwide, developing innovative programs for education and leadership development that bridge private, public, governmental, and academic sectors. Our programs will utilize best practices in adult education and participatory process to build advanced leadership across the five major systems that sustain human wellbeing (food, environmental, economic, social, and health systems). We are committed to a holistic and collaborative approach that spans traditional sector and disciplinary boundaries.


The Challenge 2050 Project’s overarching goal is building global capacity for leadership and transformative thinking across social sectors and disciplines. We believe that our ability to sustain human wellbeing beyond 2050 will require broad awareness of the complexities and challenges we face, as well the ability to work across scales and social interfaces. The C2P provides a sandbox for the development and dissemination of programs designed to both address the unique training/professional development needs of each sector in terms and to provide opportunities to learn with and from other sectors.

Specific goals include the following:

  • Identify and work to address the most pressing leadership needs of each major social sector (academic, public, and private/industry)
  • Bring together leaders from across sectors to identify and engage in developing innovative solutions to complex adaptive challenges associated with sustaining human life on the planet
  • Develop programming for each sector designed to raise awareness of the five systems and complexity of the challenge
  • Provide opportunities for existing and emerging leaders in each sector to engage with one another to develop collaborative and adaptive solutions
3-Year Plan

We envision three phases of implementation, with programming developed across the three major sectors: academic, private/industry, and public. Phase one is focused on launching, pilot testing and initial evaluation of our academic programming for undergraduates, convening a Steering Committee, and developing our advanced leadership development institute. Phase two will involve implementation of the leadership Institute, as well as development of the Summits and programming to engage public decision makers and community leaders. Phase three will see the launch of the Summits and new degree programs in food security leadership, continued evaluation of phase 1 and 2 programs, and long-term planning efforts in collaboration with the C2P Steering Committee.

Year 1

  • Launch undergraduate certificate in Food Security and Global Leadership
  • Convene Steering Committee and engage in planning efforts and long-term strategies for growth and evaluation
  • Build cohort of industry and public partners

Year 2

  • Launch Challenge Leadership Institute
  • Develop objectives and plan for Regional Forums and Global Summit
  • Develop master’s degree in Food Security Leadership
  • Ongoing evaluation efforts

Year 3

  • Launch the Regional Forums and Global Summit
  • Launch master’s degree in Leadership and Food Security
  • Development of new programming
  • Ongoing program evaluation and revisit strategic plan
Steering Committee
  • R. ELAINE TURNER Dean | College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Florida
    Professor | Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • MATTHEW M. JOHNSTON CEO, HM. Clause | Modesto, CA
    COO Nurserymen’s Exchange |Half Moon Bay, CA
    Owner and officer of business group in Florida Citrus Industry
  • JOSEPH C. JOYCE Senior Associate Vice-President for Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Florida | IFAS
    Serves on Board of the Citrus Research and Education Foundation (CREF), Farm Credit of Florida and the Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC)
    Retired Brigadier General | United States Army Reserves
  • MIKE JOYNER Assistant Commissioner and Chief of Staff | Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
    Former Chief of Staff at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and lobbyist for fruit and vegetable growers
  • ANDREW W. LAVIGNE President and CEO | American Seed Trade Association
    Executive Vice-President and CEO | Florida Citrus Mutual
    Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Fruits and Vegetables | USDA
  • KATHY BAUGHMAN-MCLEOD Senior Advisor | Global Conservation Strategy |The Nature Conservancy D.C.
    Principal | KBM Strategies |Energy, Environmental Policy, Resource Productivity, and Sustainability Strategies
    Deputy Chief of Staff | State of Florida Office of the CFO
  • NICK T. PLACE Dean and Director |University of Florida IFAS Extension
    Associate Dean and Director | University of Maryland Extension
    Dean | College of Agriculture and Natural Resources | U Maryland
  • STEVE SEIBERT Founding Partner |Tri-Sect Innovates and Seibert Law Firm
    Director of Strategic Visioning |Collins Center for Public Policy
    Secretary |Florida Department of Community Affairs