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Appropedia:BFI prize submission

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Appropedia was a semi-finalist in the 2008 Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

Below is the working page from when we collaboratively developed the submission.


Media:BFI submission draft.doc The latest rev is in the attached doc (which simplified constant word count checks). CurtB 08:41, 30 October 2007 (PDT)

Challenge Response (limit 1500 words).[edit]

"The Buckminster Fuller Challenge seeks submissions of design science solutions[1] within a broad range of human endeavor that exemplify the trimtab principle. Trimtabs[2] demonstrate how small amounts of energy and resources precisely applied at the right time and place can produce maximum advantageous change."[1]
"In order to win The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, your entry must clearly convey how your solution exemplifies the trimtab principle and meets the Entry Criteria stated below."[2]

Entry criteria[edit]

This section of notes will not necessarily be used sequentially, but might be used as appropriate in the final submission."

Comprehensive — a clear demonstration of holistic systems thinking.[edit]

Wiki as basis, open format. Open approach to add-ons including forums.[3].

  • Networking on the site supports info resource (help with info, projects, project writeups), and vice versa (people are most likely to come for the resource, and networking happens incidentally).
  • Forums support the creation of content, thanks to open license and forum policies and focus.

Anticipatory — projectively tracking critical trends and needs; identifying and assessing long term consequences of proposed solutions.[edit]

  • Openness allows for all manner of ideas and solutions that meet the basic criteria for scientific rigor.[4] Some of those solutions will be very forward thinking, and we as individuals will not recognize their significance. However, we provide a place for all such projects and designs to grow, until the time is right.


Ecologically responsible — reflective and supportive of nature's underlying processes, patterns and principles.[edit]

Emphasis is on empowering and informing, enabling those who use the resource, and those they impact, to be ecologically responsible.

Reflective of natural processes - unstructured, allows for people to create roles and fill niches.

Verifiable — able to withstand rigorous empirical testing.[edit]

Our policy on rigor - Appropedia:Rigor.

Usefulness demonstrated by:

  • (growing) popularity (a necessary but not sufficient indicator of effectiveness).
  • Feedback - people applying what they learn.

Replicable — capable of being readily undertaken by others.[edit]

  • Replication of ideas documented at the site
    • Successful Projects are meant to be replicable.
    • Projects that are less successful are opportunities to learn
    • "How-to" pages are aimed specifically at replication
  • Extension of ideas
    • Often a project in one region requires modification for replication. Wiki simplifies that extension, aiding replication
  • Replication of article concept
    • It's easy for members of the community to repeat the documentation
    • Partnering approach accelerates replicability of solution collaboration by established groups and experts
    • Indeed, wiki enables and promotes a systemic boost to replication and extension of sustainable ideas

Achievable — likely to be implemented successfully and broadly adopted.[edit]

It's happening already.

****Do need to make sure that there is still a clear need for them to give us the prize and money??? ****

  • Low barrier to use - shows up on Google searches (increasingly prominent).
  • Low barrier to participation - philosophy of openness (and diligent spam and vandalism prevention and surveillance) allows anonymous contribution.


Possible Introduction[edit]

I noticed the entry still had about 400 words to spare, so I (Scott) drafted an BFI_Introduction.

Outline - what needs to be described[edit]

Within the context of these criteria, please address the following: (*)


1. Describe the problem(s) you intend to solve and/or the preferred state you intend to achieve.[edit]

Efforts in sustainability and development technology, like many other technical fields, tend to be developed in relatively closed environments. Historically, documenting and sharing solutions involved costly and time-consuming publication, whether peer-reviewed articles in academic press, or mainstream publishing, with little benefit to the author. Similarly, the difficulty in tracking down existing solutions to appropriate technology problems has led to engineers and fieldworkers wasting time, energy, and resources solving the same problems over and over again. A single shared infrastructure is needed so that the existing disjoint community of appropriate technologists can more easily and openly collaborate on their projects. Appropedia technologists should be able to share their work with others who wish to apply it directly and develop it further. They should be able to collaborate with interested parties that can extend a project's reach to meet different conditions such as climate, culture, materials, weather, geology, crops and animal species. We envision a world where people work together to solve problems and share solutions, internationally and multilingually. The complexity of sharing has been a barrier; an established infrastructure will enable a cultural shift toward more sharing and collaboration. The "trimtab" concept is engendered in Appropedia by the leverage that can be achieved by sharing of information at zero cost to the author or reader. Creation of this infrastructure will explode the design and dissemination of best practices, leading to widespread adoption of the most successful sustainable behaviors, lifestyles and tools. Our vision is built upon the remarkable success of Wikipedia, but there is a real distinction. Wikipedia has demonstrated the power of collaborative web-based information centralization and developed collaboration policies to make that information solid, referenced and reliable for capturing what is well-established. Appropedia is expanding this concept to include collaborative research, development and problem-solving by incorporating real-world experiences of both amateurs and experts backed by policies that enable critiques, commentary and scoring of solutions.

Collaborative service learning (a pedagogy that combines community service, internship and academic instruction) opportunities assist in the training of future leaders, engineers and entrepreneurs through offering leadership opportunities, civic engagement, real life design experience, immersion in the political, economic, historical, and sociological contexts of design projects that few other teaching methods allow. But service learning and other student assignments are usually not published, and very rarely published in an accessible form. Thus knowledge is created and lost every academic year. Appropedia benefits service learning implementation by acting as a repository for appropriate technologies, systems, and policies, and by acting as a clearing house for collaborations. Appropedia is already helping to preserve this knowledge; old projects and research are being used as the starting point for more ambitious projects and research each year.

Communities often must rely upon government created content, often out of geographic, cultural, political or financial context. Appropedia provides a place for community to community education, allowing mechanisms for feedback, adaption and co-created iterative design.

2. Describe your solution and your plan to implement it.[edit]

To a large extent, our plans for implementation are already underway, thanks to the efforts of a large team of dedicated volunteers working on an ad-hoc, part-time basis. We call our solution Appropedia. Appropedia is an online, wiki-based clearinghouse for ideas, projects, questions, and designs in the domain of sustainability and development work. All content on Appropedia is released under an open license, enabling people to extend, share, translate, and use it freely and at no charge. Independent experts like George Dappilly are able use Appropedia as their web page. George has transferred his documentation on Mosquito Abatement methods [need accurate info] to Appropedia and expands and updates that information regularly. Users post questions and are able to reach George through his user talk page and contact info. Educators such as Professor Joshua Pearce (Clarion University of Pennsylvania) are able to use Appropedia as the platform on which students construct assignments, and in the process create valuable resources on sustainability. Instructor Lonny Grafman (Humboldt State University, USA and Universidad Tecnologico de Coahuila, Mexico) uses Appropedia for project development and write-up, allowing students to learn from and build upon previous work. A brief project timeline:

  • April 2006: Site created
  • October 2006: 82 registered users and 128 article pages. 74,000 pages delivered to site viewers.
  • March 2007: 186 users, 3,356 article pages, 439,000 pages delivered. Several active partnerships.
  • April 2007: The Appropedia Foundation filed Articles of Incorporation.
  • July 2007: 418 registered users, 3400 articles, 1.1 million pages delivered.
  • October 2007: 518 users, 3581 articles, 1.75 million pages delivered. Multiple active partnerships.

The momentum is growing, increasing the effect of Appropedia and requiring more active coordination and management. We seek to accelerate and expand the work, which is already being done, by providing fellowships for two volunteers from the existing community to work on Appropedia full-time. Many obstacles exist for appropriate technology organizations who want to collaborate with others online. We would like to develop, and share free of charge, the following partial list of open-source solutions for these obstacles.

  • Provide mechanisms for scoring and ranking of projects, concepts, best practices and engagements in order to promote the most rigorous and effective solutions.
  • Promote a variety of open licenses (e.g. Creative Commons) for technologies, tools, media and other content that can protect key shared publications from alteration, while also encouraging open publication using "copyleft" and public domain content.
  • Establish structured information about existing projects to improve searchability.
  • Develop tools for automated maintenance of content to reduce tedious manual work.

Additionally, the two full-time Appropedians will work with end-users to:

  • Improve the site's usability and utility.
  • Enhance Appropedia's community tools.
  • Partner with key individuals and organizations to create or bring their content to Appropedia, while simplifing their ability to share information. This process has already been used with organizations such as Village Earth, and is now begun with another one of our partners – Open Architecture Network.
  • Recruit new users from existing appropriate technology groups.
  • Translate and internationalize this primarily English site.

In many ways, we will be largely accelerating the existing ad hoc, part-time work by focusing full-time talent. This focus will establish a critical mass of awareness and support in the community by highlighting the viability, validity and credibility of the effort.

3. Describe how you will finance your solution and make it economically viable.[edit]

The Appropedia Foundation is a nonprofit California Corporation with California 23701(d) and Federal 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. The work of Appropedia is currently carried out by volunteers, with costs such as hosting and filing fees being paid directly by donors. The ability of the effort to deliver, thus far, well over 1.5 million pages of content for a net cost of around $3000 is evidence of the tremendous leverage power of the project. Additional funding will enable us to employ staff and expand our work in several important areas. Even as new gains are met by new funds, sustaining operation requires minimal funding.

While it would be possible to incorporate a fee structure into our effort, this would effectively discourage either the contributors or the consumers of the solutions, directly counter to our goals. Our preference is to sustain our low-cost operation through donations and grants. We will consider some forms of advertising and corporate sponsorships but will need to avoid conflicts of interest. We note that Wikipedia, a much larger site, has sustained itself through support without advertising.

4. Describe who will take your solution to the next stage of development (include your qualifications and/or those of your team, and any strategic partners).[edit]

The core members of the Appropedia team are:[edit]

  • Lonny Grafman - Instructor in Appropriate Technology & Environmental Resources Engineering at Humboldt State University (HSU); Executive Editor of International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering (IJSLE); Initial Founder of Appropedia.org website. Fluent in Spanish. Member, Board of Directors, The Appropedia Foundation.
  • Chris Watkins - MEngSc in Water and Sanitation, Fluent in Indonesian. Member, Board of Directors, The Appropedia Foundation.
  • Curt Beckmann - BS Physics, MBA. Filed Articles of Incorporation, Tax exemption for The Appropedia Foundation. Member, Board of Directors, The Appropedia Foundation
  • Ryan Legg - BS in Civil Engineering, Program Manager at the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise
  • Vinay Gupta - Founder of Hexayurt, STAR-TIDES (Vinay can augment this obviously)
  • Steve McCrosky - Masters in Science of Nursing, experience in public health, appropriate health technology, wheelchair construction and community development.

In a very real sense, the above team members are “project coordinators”. The real value and expertise that provide solutions is the growing community of individuals and organizations. The next stage of development is occurring as they join in, include their projects and share their knowledge, fulfilling and progressing the vision.

Some active members of the Appropedia community who are not site administrators include:[edit]

  • Joshua Pearce, Assistant Professor of Physics, Coordinator of Sustainability: Science and Policy Program and Coordinator of Nanotechnology at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and the manuscript editor for the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering (IJSLE). He is using Appropedia as a venue for his online teaching, creating content and connecting students to the effort.
  • Mel Chua, electrical and computer engineer, educator by passion, intern with One Laptop Per Child. She is one of the people who provides technical advice on the running and development of the Appropedia site.
  • George Dappilly of India, who developed the GEM mosquito control (a low-cost, non-commercial, chemical free method).
  • Gerry Baron (Home Biogas), Philippines.

Existing strategic partners:[edit]

  • Demotech
  • Architecture For Humanity - Open Architecture Network
  • One Laptop Per Child
  • Engineers Without Borders (Australia)

Partners who have endorsed Appropedia through sharing content:[edit]

  • Practical Action
  • Village Earth
  • International Rivers Network and American Rivers
  • CD3WD

Negotiating partners:[edit]

  • The Web of Hope
  • AIDG


see also Appropedia:Partners - if there's any more that can be made to look interesting here.

Footnotes and references[edit]

  1. 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." - http://challenge.bfi.org/inline/glossary_ds.php?height=300&width=400
  2. 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. - http://challenge.bfi.org/inline/glossary_trimtab.php?height=300&width=400 ...more
  3. ...and blogs... though we haven't made firm decisions on individuals having blogs yet... pros and cons, needs to be discussed.
  4. (i.e. not perpetual motion machines)

Other sources of inspiration[edit]

See also[edit]