Winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge (BFC) required more than a stand-alone idea or innovation. The review team looked for visionary whole-systems solutions that demonstrate both a clear grasp of the “big picture” and a focus on a well-defined need of critical importance. If, for example, a solution emphasized a new design, material, process, service, tool, or technology, it was essential that it be part of an integrated strategy that simultaneously addresses key social, environmental, and economic factors.

The review team sought strategies that put forth what Fuller called a preferred state model – one designed to optimize conditions from inception in order to create the most desirable, sustainable, regenerative future outcome. They also sought solutions that demonstrate what Fuller referred to as the trimtab principle-- that a relatively small initiative inserted into a system at the right time and place can maximize the potential for advantageous change.

Initiatives representing a range of development stages could enter—from early stage proposals with completed proof-of-concept to fully operating models ready to expand. Entries can tackle urgent needs at a range of geographic scales—from strategies designed to launch global initiatives tailored to local or regional conditions that can be adapted and replicated elsewhere. Nonprofit, for-profit, and hybrid initiatives were all eligible.

A successful entry would meet the following criteria:

  • Visionary – It puts forth an original idea or synthesizes existing ideas into a new strategy that creatively addresses a critical need.

  • Comprehensive – It applies a whole-systems approach to all facets of the design and implementation process and aims to simultaneously address multiple goals, requirements, and conditions.

  • Anticipatory – It factors in critical future trends and needs as well as the projected impacts of a project’s implementation in the short- and long-term.

  • Ecologically Responsible – It reflects nature’s underlying principles while enhancing systems that support life on Earth.

  • Feasible – It demonstrates proof-of-concept and relies on existing technology and/or proven science, has a solid team in place, and/or demonstrates a convincing capacity to implement the project.

  • Verifiable – It is able to withstand rigorous empirical testing and provide evidence for potential or actual positive impacts while making authentic claims.

  • Replicable – It is able to scale and be widely adapted to similar conditions elsewhere.

Winning initiatives integrated 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.