Who We Are
The Buckminster Fuller Institute consists of a dedicated Board of Directors, an international network of cross-disciplinary thinkers and doers, motivated volunteers and a small but multi-faceted staff.
Meet our staff, headquartered in San Francisco, CA.
Dr. Stuart Cowan
BFI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dr. Stuart Cowan brings 25 years of experience in regenerative design, finance, and systems and is a skilled systems thinker, transition designer, researcher, and leader of transdisciplinary initiatives. He is the Co-Founder of Autopoiesis LLC, which works to regenerate communities, ecosystems, and organizations. He was the founding convener of the Regenerative Communities Network from 2018-20, supporting 15 bioregions on their journeys of regeneration. He brings a diverse range of experiences including Chief Scientist at the Smart Cities Council, Transaction Manager for the sustainable investment fund Portland Family of Funds, and Conservation Economy Research Director at the non-profit Ecotrust. He is the co-author with Sim Van der Ryn of Ecological Design (Island Press, 1996/2007), and received his doctorate in Applied Mathematics from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on Complex Systems and Ecological Economics. He has taught and facilitated internationally for academic institutions, cities, companies, indigenous groups, government agencies, and NGOs. He is also an advisor to several international regeneration initiatives including Common Earth.
Tom Chi has worked in roles ranging from astrophysical researcher to Fortune 500 consultant to corporate executive leading hardware/software team to develop innovative products & services. He pioneered and practices a unique approach to rapid prototyping and leadership that can jumpstart innovative new ideas and move large organizations at unprecedented speeds. He was head of Product Experience and a founding member of Google X, and current works to accelerate a future where humanity becomes a net positive to nature as Managing Partner of At One Ventures.
Barbara Merz is a visionary leader who inspires resilience in nature and communities. She led a $8B+ campaign for our planet at the Nature Conservancy. She has now joined Pathfinder International to lead a Women’s Led Climate Resilience Fund. Barbara focuses on systems change at scale, towards a more equitable and regenerative future for all.
George Orbelian is a husband (Marcia), parent of twins (Craig and Wade), artist / creative, lifelong motorcyclist (current bike: Yamaha R1M) with expertise in both building competition motorcycles and experience in racing motorcycles, masters swimmer, lifelong surfer (San Francisco Ocean Beach + Hawaii and other locations around the world), surfboard design expert, author (ESSENTIAL SURFING), former Surfboard Design Editor for SURFER Magazine, real estate owner / manager (Orbelian Holdings, L.P.), environmentalist (Co-founder or Project Kaisei which funded Scripps Institution of Oceanography SEAPLEX research and received Google Earth Hero recognition, worked with The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational with Contest Director George Downing, is a technology entrepreneur (lead investor in Ojingo Labs, Inc. and in addition to the Buckminster Fuller Institute, is a board member of the Walter Munk Foundation of the Oceans, and the San Francisco State University School of International Business.
Consultants to Buckminster Fuller Institute
Bonnie DeVarco, Buckminster Fuller Archivist for BFI, is an independent researcher, writer and curator. As an education technology consultant to non-profit, corporate and educational organizations for over 25 years, she developed multi-institutional programs for distance and media enhanced learning while pioneering virtual worlds and visualization technologies in education. She has worked with the Fuller Collection at Stanford University since 2000 and was information manager and archivist for the Buckminster Fuller Archives at BFI from 1989-1995. Currently she is a program advisor to BFI and was a founding member of the advisory committee for BFI’s Buckminster Fuller Challenge from 2005 to 2017.
FULLER RESOURCE LIBRARY, BOOK CLUB
Curt McNamara, P.E., is a researcher and author. His focus is systems, innovation, bio-inspiration, and the work of Buckminster Fuller. He has written book chapters, taught design students, and practiced design. Curt is a Biomimicry Education Fellow and co-founder of the Natural Systems Working Group of INCOSE. He lives in rural WI and coordinates the Trimtab book club which discusses Bucky’s work and impacts.
Alec Nevala-Lee is the author of Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller (Dey Street Books / HarperCollins), which was selected as a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an Economist best book of the year, and one of Esquire’s fifty best biographies of all time. His previous book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, was a Hugo and Locus Awards finalist and named one of the best books of 2018 by The Economist. He is the author of three suspense novels from Penguin, including The Icon Thief, and his work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and The Daily Beast. His current project is a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis W. Alvarez, which is scheduled to be released by W.W. Norton in 2025.