Faith helping to build a dome with a group

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.

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.

Faith Flanigan

BFI EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT

Faith is the strategic and operational lead of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, working to catalyze and cohere collective insights through our network of partners, collaborators and community. She focuses on designing and building systems from a whole systems perspective for all of BFI’s programs including Regenerosity, Trimtab Space Camp, the Cooperating Manual for Spaceship Earth and the Design Science Studio. She is a seasoned strategic lead with over eighteen years of program and operations experience, bridging experts with community leaders through sense-making practices that focus on real-world solutions to planetary-scale problems.  With a Masters from Sydney University in GIS and Environmental Science, she has worked in social justice and environmental nonprofits, including Global Footprint Network, GreenFestival, as well as for-profit companies including Duncan Channon. She believes deeply in civic and social justice for all people and living systems.

Felicia Chavez headshot

Felicia Chavez, PhD, GreenMBA

BFI CHIEF OF STAFF

In addition to joining the BFI team in October of 2022, Felicia has directed a small nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of systems thinking in Marin County since 2017. She completed her B.A in Psychology at Dominican (1999), and a Green MBA (2007). Most recently she has earned a PhD in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute (2017). Her dissertation is titled Sustainability and Spirituality: Common Threads and Common Threats. Felicia is a former sustainability consultant, and is passionate about scientific literacy, direct spiritual experience, and a systems thinking approach to sustainability and the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. As of June 2018, Felicia is president of the local chapter of the United Nations Association, Marin County.

Board

Tom Chi in front of a blackboard

Tom Chi

BOARD CHAIR

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.

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Barbara Merz

BOARD MEMBER

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 photo

George Orbelian

BOARD MEMBER

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.