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20 Semi-Finalists Announced for 'Socially Responsible Design's Highest Award'

Ecosoftt (ECO Solutions for Tomorrow Today) is an emerging Singapore- and India-based social enterprise that is developing decentralized, adaptable, chemical-free, cost-effective water systems that combine rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, groundwater replenishment and other technological innovations in Asia. | Image credit: Ecosoftt

The Buckminster Fuller Institute has announced the semi-finalists for the 2014 Fuller Challenge. Named "Socially Responsible Design’s Highest Award," the Fuller Challenge invites scientists, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world to submit their solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.

The 20 Fuller Challenge semi-finalists, selected out of an entry pool of over 450 proposals, have undergone a rigorous review for adherence to the Challenge’s entry criteria and been through three rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge Review Committee. Each presents an integrated strategy to address a pressing global issue, ranging from sanitation, health, food, and poverty to water systems, conservation, and design.

"These projects deserve the attention of the world for their commitment to 'solving for system' – an approach that takes an unusual degree of insight, patience, tenacity and courage," said Elizabeth Thompson, BFI’s executive director. "The individuals and teams behind these initiatives have made extraordinary efforts to define the systemic context underlying the problem they are seeking to solve, and provide much-needed hope and encouragement that solutions to our most entrenched problems are indeed at hand."

"While only one project will receive the $100,000 cash prize, they all deserve and need our support. We are thrilled to announce that, in addition to these 20 fantastic initiatives, the benefits of our Catalyst Program will be extended to dozens of additional project leaders and teams. More information about the Catalyst Program and a full list of program participants will be announced soon," added Sarah Skenazy, The Fuller Challenge Program Manager.

The shortlisted proposals include:

  • Algal Turf Scrubbing is a biomimetic solution based on the metabolism of Caribbean coral reefs that oxygenates and purifies water, produces biomass for biofuel and organic fertilizer, mitigates pollution from agricultural run-off, improves freshwater and coastal habitats, sequesters carbon and reduces fossil fuel dependency.
  • Concern America seeks to transform conventional healthcare by training and empowering community members in the most remote, disrupted and underserved locales to take prevention and healing into their own hands and virally spread training in their regions.
  • Earth Roofs for the Sahel trains members of impoverished communities in Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region to build long-lasting, passively cooled earth buildings. The codified, traditional Egyptian Nubian Vault design creates an affordable, locally sourced, environmentally sustainable built environment; the construction training generates a self-replicating cadre of skilled masons throughout the region and engenders entrepreneurship.
  • Ecosoftt (ECO Solutions for Tomorrow Today) is an emerging Singapore- and India-based social enterprise that is developing decentralized, adaptable, chemical-free, cost-effective water systems that combine rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, groundwater replenishment and other technological innovations in Asia. Their systems are adaptable to both poor rural and prosperous urban contexts. They aim to bring clean water to underserved communities and offer an inspiring model of social enterprise as an alternative to government or privately run water systems.
  • The Food Commons aims to transform local and regional food systems by creating larger, more highly organized and coordinated physical, financial and organizational infrastructures for specific regions and connecting them to the global economy in order to boost and facilitate investments, encourage partnerships and cooperative ownership, and create a genuinely sustainable model of a local and global food economy.
  • Fuego Del Sol Haiti is a social enterprise that confronts Haiti’s deadly charcoal addiction through development, introduction and adoption of innovative ecological fuel briquettes, presses, stoves and the training and empowerment of women. Fuego Del Sol, the largest upcycler in Haiti, also collects and separates a wide range of waste materials into sustainable products and plans to include farming, green building, and land reclamation.
  • Gardens for Health International, an NGO pioneering the integration of nutrition-based agriculture into the clinical care of malnutrition, partners with rural Rwandan health clinics to implement healthcare strategies that include nutritional education and the nurturing of home gardens of nutrient-rich foods for each family. They are seeking to expand this program throughout Rwanda and into Uganda, Burundi and beyond. This elegant model could be replicated globally to address malnutrition.
  • Living Breakwaters is a comprehensive design for coastal resiliency along the Northeastern Seaboard of the United States and beyond. This approach to climate change adaptation and flood mitigation includes the deployment of innovative, layered ecologically engineered concrete underwater breakwaters, the strengthening of biodiversity and coastal habitats, the nurturing and resuscitation of fisheries, and deep community engagement through diverse partnerships and innovative educational programs.
  • Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront Restoration Plan, a comprehensive, detailed regeneration plan for the Makoko/Iwaya community in Lagos, Nigeria, which was threatened with being razed, seeks to preserve local culture and social relationships, revitalize the built environment, increase economic opportunities, and ensure disaster resilience for over 40,000 residents. Its implementation revolves around community inclusion and local leadership and the empowering of women and youth. The plan holds the preservation of traditional lagoon-front culture as a core value, presenting a compelling vision of a floating economy based on sustainable aquaculture and tourism.
  • Multifunctional Membrane: Self-Active Building Cells, Not Building Blocks are the centerpieces of a technology that could potentially provide inexpensive, biodegradable, living, breathing "skins" for buildings that would auto-regulate in response to heat, light and humidity and provide climate control, ventilation and lighting without mechanical systems, thereby radically reducing energy use and costs, especially in tropical regions under critical environmental and socio-economic stresses.

Challenge Finalists will be announced in the fall and celebrated at a ceremony in New York City in mid-November.

Speaking of game-changing innovations in design, in January the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design announced the three finalists for the World Design Impact Prize 2013-2014: the BioLite HomeStove, which emits low levels of smoke, providing a cleaner cooking environment for people in the developing world who traditionally burn wood or coal to cook indoors, and features a USB port for charging electronics; the Refugee Housing Unit, a pilot project with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the IKEA Foundation that provides a temporary shelter that facilitates ‘a feeling of normality’ for families living in refugee camps; and the winner, A Behaviour Changing (ABC) Syringe, which uses a simple color-changing label so patients and practitioners can easily ascertain if the syringes used in their care are sterile. 


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