The 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

Posted on by Lauren M

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."  -R.  Buckminster Fuller

In accordance with this philosophy, the Buckminster Fuller Institute maintains his legacy, ethic, methodology and perspective to help enact change and improve ecological and social conditions on a global scale. 



‘Doing more with less’ was a key tenet of Bucky’s philosophy, as he was an early leader in the movement towards sustainability, technology, environmental responsibility and experimental design.  Best known for his geodesic dome and the Dymaxion house, Buckminster Fuller employed a broad, whole-systems perspective to inform these projects and many others.  More specifically, he was a primary proponent of 'Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science' as a means of problem-solving in a holistic, open and inclusive manner, with a consideration of the future of both the environment and its inhabitants.

Design science is, in short, an approach to creating long-term solutions to complex issues through the use of collaboration, invention, and the integration of social, political and economic factors, as well as science-based research.  Ultimately, the aim of design science is to generate ideas that can be applied beyond the needs of a single project, with the goal of protecting earth's finite resources and increasing the quality of life for all of humanity.

That said, the Institute’s flagship program, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, highlights the efforts of some of the world’s most inventive designers, thinkers and organizations who are actively incorporating these concepts in their efforts to address some of the most critical humanitarian and environmental crises faced today.  All the finalists profiled in the video below are pioneering such solutions throughout the developing world, from Africa to India and beyond.

It's apparent to see why these projects are being recognized for their contributions to the global community, as they all fulfill the Challenge criteria to 'present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world's complex problems through regionally specific yet globally applicable solutions'.

Finalist Blue Ventures was just awarded the $100,000 prize and deservedly so; considered to be a 'social enterprise', the organization addresses environmental, economic, cultural, and biological issues faced in impoverished coastal villages worldwide through conservation management and the development of sustainable fishery reserves.  Additionally, with the awareness that local communities and fisherman have an intrinsically greater knowledge of their own fisheries and tradition, the project actively involves regional populations to determine the most viable solution to not only protect threatened marine ecosystems, but to also improve the livlihoods of local fishermen and overall quality of life.



In alignment with Fuller’s values, Blue Ventures has expanded their focus to look at the underlying issues that contribute to the problem of decreasing biodiversity and poverty, such as population growth.  In response, the organization has further empowered villagers by not only utilizing their participation and input in the realm of conservation, but by providing environmental education, as well as the resources necessary for effective family planning, all while maintaining a respect for traditional values and regional culture.


Indeed, Blue Ventures embodies the values of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and Fuller himself, by ‘leading in the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity.’

 For detailed information on the winning entry, as well as more on this year's semi-finalists, visit the Idea Index to take a look at some of the invaluable work being done throughout the world to promote sustainability through activism and innovation.