The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
Each year a distinguished jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.
Inspired by Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller's prolific life of exploration, discovery, invention and teaching was 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.”
Fuller coupled this intention with a pioneering approach aimed at solving complex problems. This approach, which he called “comprehensive anticipatory design science”, combined an emphasis on individual initiative and integrity with whole systems thinking, scientific rigor and faithful reliance on nature's underlying principles. The designs he is best known for (the geodesic dome, the Dymaxion house, car, and map, and the global electric grid) were part of a visionary strategy to redesign the inter-related systems of shelter, transportation and energy.
After decades of tracking world resources, innovations in science and technology, and human needs, Fuller asserted that options exist to successfully surmount the crises of unprecedented scope and complexity facing all humanity – he issued an urgent call for a design science revolution to make the world work for all.
Answering this call is what the Buckminster Fuller Challenge is all about.
Buckminster Fuller Challenge: Program Goals
The Program’s guiding objective is to catalyze wide-spread change in our understanding and approach to solving complex global problems. To achieve this, the program seeks to:
1. Create a rigorous, transformational process for entry in which applicants grapple deeply with a unique set of criteria.
2. Promote and disseminate an integrated, comprehensive, systems-based approach to the design of solutions.
3. Highlight and reward exemplary strategies which embody this approach.
4. Accelerate the implementation of these solutions. Buckminster Fuller Challenge accelerator features include benefits outside of prize money. Scroll down to read about them.
Whom We Reach:
The program attracts an international, interdisciplinary pool of participants tackling a vast array of pressing problems in hundreds of countries around the world. Our core participants exemplify the extraordinary spirit of individual initiative and ingenuity and include whole systems pioneers, social entrepreneurs, artist/scientist/designers, next-gen change-agents, sustainability educators, and concerned citizens.
What We're Looking For
Winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge will require more than a great stand-alone innovation. If for example, your solution emphasizes a new design, material, process, service, tool, technology, or any combination, it is essential that it be part of an integrated strategy dealing with key social, economic, environmental, policy and cultural 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.
The winning strategy will integrate all these criteria into a powerful catalyst having the potential to play a significant role in the transition to an equitable and sustainable future for all.
What You Can Win
– Scott Gibson, 2010 Semi-Finalist, Sustainable Disaster Response
"The criterion for the challenge was like a 5th team member. I feel the entire SDR proposal was as much a synergy of disciplines as it was a response to the challenge. From beginning to end of the submission process it was 100 days of development. After attending the award ceremony… I realized the scope of time all other entries had been operating and found comfort to keep at it with a new larger and longer picture of progress gained from the experience."
– Scott Gibson, 2010 Semi-Finalist, Sustainable Disaster Response
Entrants that put forward a bold, visionary, tangible initiative that is focused on a well-defined need of critical importance and represent a preferred state model in order to create the most desirable, sustainable, future outcome, will become part of a powerful network of whole systems practitioners. In order to accelerate the development and deployment of such solutions, The Buckminster Fuller Challenge aims to facilitate convergence across disciplines, offering unique insight into global trends and local community solutions, catalyzing the collective intelligence required to fully address the unprecedented challenges before us.
The Challenge is not just an award prize, but acts as an accelerator for many entrants. Accelerator programs connect a network of practitioners, investors, consultants and educational content. The Challenge process does this in its many stages. The application and interview process becomes an educational tool for entrants. Vetting process provides BFI with a depository of pre-vetted projects to share with our network of partners, funders, and collaborators. Each entry will benefit in its own way through entering the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Challenge accelerator features include:
- All participants who 'opt-in' when filling out their application, and whose entries meet the criteria as decided by the BFI review team, will have their work featured in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Idea Index. The Idea Index is a fully searchable database of socially-responsible initiatives in all stages of development. It serves as a tool to educate, network, and help solve problems. As an educational tool, the Index is full of hopeful, exciting ideas and solutions to pressing world problems, serving entrants as a media outlet, a networking tool, and a location to gather support.
Semi-Finalists in the Challenge will receive the above, as well as:
- Presentation of work on the Buckminster Fuller Challenge semi-finalist page, BFI's monthly newsletter Trimtab, and social media outlets (with permission to publish work).
- Featured recognition of work through the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s outreach materials that are distributed at events and conferring ceremony.
- Semi-finalists will be considered for inclusion in dMASS Inc.'s dynamic depository of innovations that facilitate the relationship between resource performance innovators and investors. All Semi-finalists will be included in dMASS Inc.’s newsletter Insights, which features “better with less” innovations. Insights is distributed weekly to investors, business leaders, sustainability managers, media professionals and others interested in emerging opportunities.
- Up to 8 Semi-Finalists will benefit from BFI's FastTrack partnership with the Unreasonable Institute by receiving guaranteed first round interviews to their application process should they qualify according to UI criteria.
- Exposure to private funders and investors in the BFI network.
Finalists in the Challenge will receive all of the above, as well as:
- Finalists will have the opportunity to present their work at the 2013 Bioneers Conference with the Buckminster Fuller Institute.
- Additional opportunities to present work at events organized by the Buckminster Fuller Institute subject to funding. In the past, this has included Architecting the Future symposia, Black Mountain College International Conference, Cooper Union lectures, and other international symposia on Buckminster Fuller, sustainable culture events, design conferences and social entrepreneurship gatherings.
- Introduction to BFI network of international press for opportunities to develop press around work.
The winner (individual or team) of the Challenge will receive all of the above, as well as:
- A $100,000 cash prize to support the on-going development and implementation of their winning solution.
- Round trip airfare for the team leader or representative (accommodations included) to receive the prize at a ceremony to which the press and guests will be invited.
- The OmniOculi award sculpture created for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge by artist Tom Shannon.
We are always building new partnerships and adding to the below benefits to entering the Challenge. If you would like to be involved in helping accelerate these world changing projects, read about our partner opportunities here.
For more information on entering, past winners, juries and other resources visit the