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Every three years, curators at the Cooper-Hewitt (The National Design Museum, the only Smithsonian Museum outside Washington, and the only one you have to pay to visit) gather what designers around the world are pursuing.

This year, much of the work has to do with sustainability. The way the curators sorted it all reminded me of our own Rethink Speakers Series, organized around topics.

The exhibition addresses Energy, Mobility, Community, Materials, Prosperity, Health, Communication, and Simplicity, similar to our own principles of planning sustainability. The products and projects range from high tech efforts like a solar-powered cargo ship to a rattan bike trailer for Indian housewives.

Planners will be interested in the Community projects, ranging from Medellin, Colombia, where the decision to build public facilities in the poorest neighborhoods has transformed the city, to the Vertical Village, a kit of parts building addition.

I’m impressed by the focused attention to a problem, the sensible use of existing materials and resources, and the willingness to look at our surroundings with a fresh eye. It’s just what many of the speakers in the Rethink Series have done in our community, from Casey Anderson figuring out what makes people bike to Community Forklift turning trash into treasure.

Sometimes being radical requires only a small step.