Professor Christine Beckman, USC
Grand challenges are not confined to clear field boundaries and responses to these problems increasingly require actors from different fields to interact and organise their actions. We theorise how a boundary practice fosters inter-field interactions in the context of a grand challenge where no singular field actor has sufficient influence to guide the interactions. Building from theoretical discussions of fields and inter-field interactions, we conduct a qualitative study involving interviews and in-depth archival research to examine the bridging of the humanitarian and development fields in response to the problem of global displacement. We describe how a boundary practice, cash-based assistance, fosters flexible engagement and a shared structure for distributed field interactions while allowing each field to retain its separate functions. Cash-based assistance simultaneously enables deep inter-field engagements in situ and broad engagements in scale through three mechanisms: knotting, latching and mushrooming. These mechanisms work to bridge the humanitarian and development fields through ideational, pragmatic, and relational field bridging. Our study offers theoretical contributions to emerging studies on interactions between fields and to our understanding of grand challenges.