Operation Hope Triumphs

“Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science” was what Bucky Fuller, with characteristic verbosity, called his strategic approach to solving complex problems, and he issued a call for a “Design Science Revolution.” Every year, the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) honors one of the brave souls who takes up the challenge, and shows how we may “make this world work for all.” On Wednesday, the BFI announced that this year’s $100,000 prize will go to Operation Hope, a project that has worked for more than 40 years to reverse the process of desertification and protect Zimbabwe’s grasslands.

In 1992, the Zimbabwean wildlife biologist, farmer, and politician Allan Savory founded the Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) to further his efforts to combat the depletion of grasslands while maintaining the health of livestock. On a 6,500-acre rangeland learning center, Savory and his associates–including his wife and five African chiefs–established a previously unsuspected cause of desertification: a faulty decision-making framework. Operation Hope employed a new approach called “holistic rangeland management” and achieved astonishing results, transforming barren land into green grass and open water, and increasing livestock by 400 percent.

This incredible ecological transformation has far-ranging ramifications, “mitigating climate change, biomass burning, drought, flood, drying of rivers and underground waters, disappearing wildlife, massive poverty, social breakdown, violence and genocide.” If that isn’t enough to merit socially-responsible design’s highest award, then I don’t know what is.

Image: courtesy the Buckminster Fuller Institute

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