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Published on October 30th, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Buckminster Fuller Challenge: A Design Science Revolution

Buckminster Fuller spent his life exploring, discovering, inventing and teaching, driven by his intention “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.” He was a true change agent, and way ahead of his time. Most know him as the geodesic dome inventor, but the scope of his knowledge was huge.

Image: Paul LowryGeodesic Dome

Geodesic Dome

“If success or failure of the planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do… How would I be? What would I do?” -Buckminster Fuller

The work he began is being carried on by Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), and each year, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy with significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. The Challenge can’t be won by a single innovation. Rather, any ideas proposed must be part of an integrated strategy that include addressing environmental, social, cultural, economic, and policy issues.

“The winning solution should exemplify the trimtab principle. Trimtabs are small steering devices used on ships and airplanes which demonstrate how relatively small amounts of leverage, energy, and resources strategically applied at the right time and place can produce maximum advantageous change.

Entrants must put forward a bold, visionary, tangible initiative that is focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Proposed solutions must represent a preferred state model – one that aims to optimize conditions from inception in order to create the most desirable, sustainable, future outcome. Entries should be regionally specific yet globally applicable, and backed up by a solid plan and the capability to move the solution forward.”

Just having a great idea isn’t enough. Entries to the Challenge have to be replicable, verifiable, feasible, comprehensive, ecologically responsible, and anticipatory (of future needs and trends).


The Buckminster Fuller Challenge also maintains an Idea Index, a searchable database of entries from previous years. The Index contains over 200 innovative solutions which address our world’s most pressing problems and showcasing the winners, runner up and honorable mentions from past Challenge years. The Index is also a way for people around the world to pick up on ideas and act on them, and forms an interactive community with tools for dialog and sharing.

Get the Green Living Ideas book in softcover or PDF for as low as $2.99!

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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