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The Future of Oceanic Infrastructure: Reef Life Selected for Catalyst Inc at Buck Fuller Science '17

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Buckminster Fuller Catalyst Win Reef Life

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

The idea here is interconnected systems: a decision in one realm bouncing around to those in others, and the need to understand systems to achieve our desired outcomes and avoid unintended consequences. One of the thought processes of the great Buckminster Fuller, whose quote we at Reef Life take to heart daily:

"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I've finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it's wrong."

Reef Life Restoration is so humbled and proud to be included in the Catalyst Program for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, and in the curated 10 year TOP challenge applicants. Over the program’s ten-year history (2007-2017) the Fuller Challenge attracted thousands of initiatives from across the globe, tackling every conceivable issue facing humanity and the planet today.

Each team submitted an application that was subject to a rigorous vetting process in which our esteemed review team and juries invested hundreds of hours of investigation, research, and debate to select our honored entries. First recognized in 2011 by Metropolis Magazine as “socially responsible design’s highest award”.

Winning projects are visionary initiatives that address multiple problems simultaneously, and evoke inspiration for others to study and replicate.

The 10th Year of the Science Innovation challenge had more entries than any other year, from over 100 countries, 460 entries, and Reef Life Restoration was included in the TOP 17%

"Look back at more than 350 inspiring projects from the past decade of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, including Reef Life Restoration! The BFC team has just released an archival website dedicated to the best entries, along with a film documenting the ten-year program and its impact on the field of whole-system design. Check it out!

"Reef Life Restoration has been selected for a newly curated archive of more than 350 outstanding projects that were recognized by the Buckminster Fuller Challenge from 2007-2017. Browse the archive for inspiring examples from a decade of global solutions using whole-system design:"

Fuller Challenge remains the only prize program specifically working to identify, catalyze, and celebrate projects that employ whole systems approaches to problem solving. The Fuller Challenge puts forth a global call for solutions that address humanity's most pressing problems, welcoming submissions from all fields. In response to this open call, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, planners, scientists, and other comprehensive design practitioners submit entries that present integrated strategies informed by an understanding of whole systems. The Fuller Challenge continues to attract geographically diverse applicants working in communities and eco-systems around the world.

Our innovative designs included in the challenge entry, along with Reef Life Restoration Nanoscience Innovations were created by Andrew Kuhlken, and Guyon Brenna.

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.

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