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#FirstWorldProblems : Switching the Power

We often hear about International Development projects overseas. I’m based Canada. North America. A western nation. And part of a group of Allie nations that won World War II, which initiated this ‘era of development’ many people call the second half of the 20th century. With this new sense of There was a new sense of globalization, rooted in colonial history, working to keep World War three from kicking off.

We found ourselves, suddenlty, in two camps: ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’. And of course the bar was set to a Western standard of living.

Moreover, when the Cold War happened, we found ourselves stacked depending on your level of buddy-buddy with the United States of America. USA, UK and allies as “First World” nations. Soviet Union, China and allies as “Second World”. And, most of those that were left were lumped into the “Third World” standing.

Today, International Development agencies work to ‘develop’ these ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘second’ world’ or ‘third world’ issues. There are a number of growing videos, memes, hashtags and other social media references to first world issues. Like, “My I phone is not the newest anymore” or “I don’t know what shoes to war today”. But, seriously, although we find humour in these small things, the truth is, we do have problems as a western nation. But we assume that we know best when it comes to the development of other countries.

Enter Ghana Think Tank.

Ghana Think Tank, an international collective, flips this power dynamic on it’s head by developing the first world by having third world ideas be implemented in our developed nations.On their site they state:

“Ghana ThinkTank’s innovative approach to public art reveals blind spots between otherwise disconnected cultures, challenges assumptions about who is “needy,” and turns the idea of expertise on its head by asking people in the “third world” to solve problems of people in the “first world.” This process helps people overcome their own stereotypes while being exposed to the stereotypes that other cultures have about them.”

Their work has been most recently featured in the Venice Biennial of Architecture, the National Museum of Wales, Hong Kong/ Shenzhen Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism and the Global Contemporary at ZKM in Germany.

Examples of their work include asking a Moroccan think tank to figure out a way for a newly developing plot of land in Detroit could create a better sense of community but also provide affordable housing in an already gentrified neighbourhood . The project is inspired by the Islamic term Riad: a communal housing around a central courtyard. This came out of a long discussion on social isolation and segregated communities when it comes to USA architecture.

They are also working on a project looking at issues pertaining to the USA and Mexican border.

Ghana Think Tank challenges me to look at the social powers that be internationally. The expectation that just cause we won the war, we know best when it comes to developent.

You can find out more about them by visiting their website.

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