Buckminster Fuller

2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland and the Yasmin list.


February 17, 2014, New York City – The Buckminster Fuller Institute formally announced the Call for Proposals to the 2014 Fuller Challenge. Recognized as “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award”, the Challenge invites activists, architects, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, students and planners from all over the world to submit their innovative solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.

Entries will be accepted until April 11, 2014.


Buckminster Fuller called for a design revolution to “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Answering this call is what the Fuller Challenge is all about.

Winning entries for the last six years have applied a rare combination of pragmatic, visionary, comprehensive and anticipatory thinking to tackling issues as broad as urban mobility, coastal restoration and innovation in biomaterials packaging. BFI has created an application process for entry to the Fuller Challenge in which global changemakers grapple deeply with a unique set of criteria. Internationally renowned jurors and reviewers look for whole systems strategies that integrate effectively with key social, environmental and economic factors impacting each design solution.


“The Challenge program has defined an emerging field of practice – the whole systems approach to understanding and solving the interrelated crises facing us. The entry criteria have established a new framework through which to identify and measure effective, enduring solutions to global sustainability’s most entrenched challenges,” said Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of The Buckminster Fuller Institute. “We are committed to further supporting this emergent field through our Catalyst Program, which provides much needed additional support to select initiatives: mentoring, pro-bono legal services, consideration for fiscal sponsorship, international press coverage, special invitations to present at conferences and exhibitions, and more! We partnered with Interface in 2013 to launch this program, and we could not be more gratified that we are able to continue its development in 2014.”


Are you or someone you know working on a holistic solution to make the world work for 100%? Read below for more information on what we are looking for, download the full Call for Proposals, and APPLY!

Deadline for entries is Friday, April 11, 2014, at 5pm EST.


Buckminster Fuller led a prolific life of research, invention, writing and teaching. He developed a comprehensive systems approach to understanding complex global problems. By rigorously adhering to his unique set of “design science” principles, Fuller’s work embodies a deeply attuned ecological aesthetic. Fuller conceived and prototyped new strategies intended to enable all of humanity to live lives characterized by freedom, comfort and dignity without negatively impacting the earth’s ecosystems or regenerative ability. He emphasized that the technology and know-how already exist to successfully surmount our global challenges and advocated “doing more with less” by increasing the overall performance of every resource invested in a system.


Winning the Fuller Challenge requires more than a stand-alone idea or innovation that focuses on one aspect of a system failure. BFI looks for holistic strategies that demonstrate a clear grasp of the big-picture dynamics influencing your intervention. If a proposal emphasizes a new design, material, process, service, tool or technology, it is essential that it be part of an integrated strategy that deals effectively with key social, environmental and economic factors.

BFI seeks initiatives that tackle urgent needs at a range of scales: from macro-strategies that have the potential for widespread, tangible impacts, to local, community-based initiatives with global relevance and replicability. A highly competent project team with the capacity and commitment to move the solution forward for transformative impact is essential.

Entries must meet the following criteria:

  • Visionary – put forth an original idea or synthesize existing ideas into a new strategy that creatively addresses a critical need
  • Comprehensive – apply a “whole-systems” approach to the design and implementation process; aim to address multiple goals, requirements and conditions in a holistic way
  • Anticipatory – factor in critical future trends and needs as well as the projected impacts of implementation in the short and long term
  • Ecologically Responsible – reflect nature’s underlying principles while enhancing the ability for natural systems to regenerate
  • Feasible – rely on current technology, existing resources and a solid team capable of implementing the project
  • Verifiable – able to withstand rigorous testing and make authentic claims
  • Replicable – able to be adapted to similar conditions elsewhere

Winning initiatives integrate these criteria into powerful design solutions that have the potential to play a significant role in the transition to an equitable and sustainable future for all.

To receive updates on the 2014 Fuller Challenge, please contact challenge@bfi.org

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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Pessimism, optimism, pt 3

Robert Butler of the Ashden Directory, one of the best bloggers in the arts/ecology zone, has an excellent article in the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine about the high level of public indifference to climate change, suggesting that our strategies are all wrong.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the authors of “The Death of
Environmentalism”, recently wrote that, “Global warming remains a
low-priority issue, hovering near the bottom of the Pew Centre for
People and the Press’s top 20 priorities. By contrast, public concern
about gasoline and energy prices has shifted dramatically.” 

no surprise that most people aren’t listening. Some years ago, NOP
conducted a survey where they went out into the street and told people
that they were going to mention a string of words and as soon as people
heard each one they had to say whether their energy levels went up or
down. The word “environment” was included in the list. “The horrible,
horrible conclusion of this survey”, recalled Jonathan Porritt,
“was that for the vast majority of people the mere mention of the word
‘environment’ sent their energy levels plummeting downwards.”

Instead he quotes Buckminster Fuller: “You don’t change things by
fighting the existing reality, you change things by building a new
model that makes the existing one obsolete.” People respond to a positive vision of our future life, not dire warnings of the impending grimness. Read it here.

Buoyed by the internet generation, there are many who have great faith that entrepreneurial creativity can dig us out of this. The difficulty is not so much the lack of new models though, but the lack of success of those that are being worked on. There are dreams like Winy Maas’s brilliant new city in Seoul, but in reality those dreams are proving extremely hard to make concrete. Not so long back, Robert wrote glowingly about Arup’s great plans for the new eco-city of Dongtan in China, arguably the best practical blueprint yet for mass urban living. But plans for building the city appear to be slipping as economic will disappears. The site remains as “sodden farmland”.

Both the warnings of scientists and environmentalists and the creators of new models are frustrated by the public’s indifferent response. People feel too disempowered, too fatalistic or too apathetic to embrace change. If the public, the activists and the dreamers are unable to create the energy for a solution, maybe it’s a failure of leadership. 

In yesterday’s interview about the need for artists to engage in his campaign, Bill McKibben invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill. Now that was possibly an attempt to flatter us Brits, but intentional or not, there is a point there. Churchill’s depiction of himself as the lone voice speaking out against Nazism in the 1930s may be a historical exaggeration, but he was one of several politicians who took a vocal stand though initially unfashionable stand against the appeasement of Nazism. 

Secretary of State for Climate Change Ed Miliband, as reported below, has been repeatedly calling for a popular movement about global warming, to give politicians like him a base on which to act. In his post on the Gaza conflict, Matthew Taylor points to the leadership deficit  in Israel that allows the hawks to speak the loudest. When a Secretary of State for Climate Change starts asking Jarvis Cocker to lead a popular movment on climate change so that he can have the freedom to act, are we also suffering from a leadership deficit?

The Closest Packing of Spheres, Buckminster Fuller, 1980, Chrome-plated steel rods, acrylic spheres.
Sebastian + Barquet Gallery

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