Below is a set of resource documents and video selected specifically to enrich the understanding of Design Science, sustainability, leverage points, etc – all of which speak directly to The Buckminster Fuller Challenge entry criteria and helped the Buckminster Fuller Institute form the criteria and principles. We hope you enjoy the research.
You can find more videos or symposia and lectures on The Buckminster Fuller Institute's Vimeo Page.
Key terms that outline the theoretical framework for The Buckminster Fuller Challenge:
Buckminster Fuller was one of our world's first futurists and global thinkers. His 1927 decision to work always and only for all humanity led him to address the largest global problems. He realized early on that by examining global problems in the context of the whole system-the whole planet-he would have the best chance of identifying large-scale trends that would allow him to anticipate the critical needs of humanity.
Design Science is an approach to solving problems developed by Buckminster Fuller. It's an approach that informs the basis of our entry criteria. In the words of Buckminster Fuller, Design Science is "effective application of the principles of science to the conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth's finite resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet."
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. In design science, the trimtab metaphor is used to describe an artifact, or system, specifically designed and placed in the environment at such a time, in such a place, where its effects would be maximized, thereby effecting the most advantageous change with the least resources, time and energy. Doing more with less. Buckminster Fuller often describe himself as a trimtab and had "Call me Trimtab" inscribed on his grave.
Design Science: A Framework for Change by Michael Ben- Eli
During the last quarter century, Buckminster Fuller's concept of Design Science has come to mean different things to different people, evolving in the process into a potent combination of method, metaphor and myth.
The purpose of this document is to refocus the concept, address it in the context of some reflections about design in general, and link Design Science to the sustainability challenge facing humanity today.
click to download: Design Science: A Framework for Change by Michael Ben-Eli [pdf 4.1mb]
Humanity's Critical Path: From Weaponry to Livingry by R. Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller often framed inventions and artifacts in terms of weaponry and livingry - objects and ideas meant to kill, main, destroy versus those that enhance and advance "comprehesive human success." The goal of Fuller's call for a design science revolution was to encourage scientists, inventors, architects, designers, and comprehensivists worldwide to focus their energies on creating and introducing livingry artifacts that would enrich human life and bring about "a world that works for 100% of humanity." In this piece, Fuller reiterates this call and describes his own livingry artifacts such as The Dymaxion House, Geodesic Dome, and Dymaxion Omnitransport (car).
click to download: Humanity's Critical Path: From Weaponry to Livingry by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 1.1mb ]
WORLD DESIGN SCIENCE DECADE DOCUMENTS
These documents comprise a series entitled "World Design Science Decade."
The series originates with the proposal made by R. Buckminster Fuller to the International Union of Architects (I. U. A. ) at their VIIth Congress in London, England in July, 1961. He proposed then that the architectural schools around the world be encouraged by the I. U. A. to invest the next ten years in a continuing problem of how to make the total world's resources which [in 1961] serve only 40% serve 100% of humanity through competent design despite a continuing decrease of metal resources per capita.
In essence, The World Design Science Decade series of documents suggests, in great detail, ways in which world architectural schools, and specifically their students, should initiate, and assume The Design Science Decade. The total series includes many of Fuller's most prescient ideas.
A note from the series editor, John McHale:
"Though the language of some of the texts may seem difficult at first approach, it should be borne in mind that one of our major problems in thinking today  is the use of language systems which still represent a fixed, structurally compartmentalized world view. The terms available to us for the expression of dynamic, rather than static, concepts are far from satisfactory. Fuller's language is particularly representative of the 'transitional state' (of the western world) between the older, traditional, noun-centered culture to its present day, changing, verb-centered culture'. In his search for an adequately descriptive terminology he tends to employ concepts and usages from many different fields juxtaposed in ways which may be unfamiliar to those more customarily restrained within the vocabularies of particular disciplines."
Phase I (1963) Document 1: Inventory of World Resources Human Trends and Needs by R. Buckminster Fuller and John McHale [pdf 4.1mb]
Phase I (1964) Document 2: The Design Initiative by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 113mb]
Phase I (1965) Document 3: Comprehensive Thinking by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 3.8mb]
Phase I (1965) Document 4: The Ten Year Program by R. Buckminster Fuller and John McHale [pdf 75 mb]
Phase II (1967) Document 5: Introduction to Comprehensive Design Strategy by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 1mb]
Phase II (1967) Document 5: Comprehensive Design Strategy by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 222k]
Phase II (1967) Document 5: Chronofile by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 73k]
Phase II (1967) Document 6: The Ecological Context Energy and Materials by John McHale [pdf 89mb]
Document I: The World Game (1971) The World Game: Integrative Resource Utilization Planning Tool by R. Buckminster Fuller.
A Return to Being Human, By Hardin Tibbs
This research paper proposes the concept of the 'general ecosystem'— a novel pattern of economic and social organization based on a holistic reassessment of human needs and a reintegration of our sense of what it is to be human.
In March 2007, the BBC broadcast in the UK a three-part documentary called The Trap[i], by the controversial British film maker, Adam Curtis. Its message was that "a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures" plus an overriding belief in human selfishness have created "a cage" for human beings in modern society. The documentary argued that this predicament is in part the result of a long process by which social and personal values have become dominated by reductionist thinking. The Trap was pessimistic in tone and did not offer any clear solution. The question it left open, which this paper addresses, is whether it is possible to reverse this process by establishing a basis for values that would not be reductionistic, and that would offer a way out of the present trap.
click to download: A Return to being Human, By Hardin Tibbs [pdf 328 kb]
Environmental Design Science Primer by Howard Brown, Robert Cook & Medard Gabel
From the foreword: This primer outlines one alternative to present problem-solving techniques, an approach Buckminster Fuller calls "comprehensive anticipatory design science." Design science is "the effective application of the principles of science tothe conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth's finite resources meet the needs of all of humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet."
click to download: Environmental Design Science Primer by Howard Brown, Robert Cook & Medard Gabel [pdf 4.2mb]
Places to Intervene in a System by Donella H. Meadows
Dr. Donella H. Meadows (Ph.D. in biophysics, Harvard University), a Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment and a MacArthur Fellow, was one of the most influential environmental thinkers of the twentieth century.
The central thesis of Places to Intervene in the System is "Leverage points are not intuitive. Or if they are, we intuitively use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve." Leverage points are those "places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything."
click to download: Places to Intervene in a System by Donella H. Meadows [pdf 92k ]
Sustainability: The Five Core Principles by Michael Ben-Eli
Dr. Michael Ben-Eli is an international consultant on management and organization. He was a student and close associate of Buckminster Fuller, with whom he collaborated on projects involving research on advanced structural systems and exploration of issues related to the management of technology and world resources for the advantage of all.
The Five Core Principles of Sustainability have been developed to serve as a new framework to advance our understanding of what must guide our actions if we intend to implement breakthrough sustainability practices.
"If you wish to fly and want to successfully construct an aircraft in order to do so, you need to understand the basic principles of aerodynamics. Similarly, if we are serious about ensuring a sustainable future, we need to be guided by a set of principles which underlie sustainability as an enduring state." — M. Ben-Eli
click to download: Sustainability: The Five Core Principles by Michael Ben-Eli [pdf 112k ]