Meeting the Challenge of Sustainable Design

Ryan Jones | FrontlineSMS | June 15, 2011

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

The above quote, from famed designer Buckminster Fuller, sums up the motivation behind ‘Architecting the Future,’ three days of learning, sharing, and celebrating innovation for social change. I was proud to represent FrontlineSMS as one of four finalists for this year’s Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an award recognising ‘bold, visionary’ initiatives that are trying to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges.  While we didn’t come away with the prize, it was certainly an honor to know the jury considered our work ‘a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems.’

FrontlineSMS was certainly in good company alongside the other extraordinary finalists, who all demonstrated comprehensive, specific design solutions to important problems. The overall winner of the Challenge, Blue Ventures, take a multifaceted approach to conservation and community development in Madagascar’s coastal communities, by tackling root causes of overfishing and poverty in the region. The remaining two finalists, the Rainforest Foundation’s participatory mapping project in the Congo basin and Tara Ashkar+, a creative technology-driven literacy program in India, take similar approaches, engaging whole communities and systems to maximize the impact, durability, and sustainability of their work.