Unconventional Think Tank comes to campus

Ghana Think Tank’s mobile cart, now outside of WCMA, encourages student input and participation. Grace Flaherty/Photo Editor.
Ghana Think Tank’s mobile cart, now outside of WCMA, encourages student input and participation. Grace Flaherty/Photo Editor.

Wherever human beings go, problems follow them. Yes, even in developed countries. The Ghana Think Tank has taken this idea and run with it to create a positive and inclusive program. Despite its debut event Thursday at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), which explained its uique approach, and a tent in Currier Quad, the organization remains relatively unknown.

The Ghana Think Tank takes the conventional notion that first world countries must help developing countries and flips it on its head. It asks citizens in first world countries what they think the biggest problems they face are, and then sends those problems to developing countries, where groups of people discuss possible solutions. Ghana Think Tank promises to implement the solutions, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.

One past project addressed police officers harassing Latin American immigrants in Queens. Other projects have included collecting problems from the people of Serbia and sending them to Albania, and vice versa, as well as having discussions between residents of Tijuana and American citizens at the Mexican border. Ghana Think Tank has upheld its promise to implement solutions. For example, the organization’s solution to police harassment was to post signs stating that people may loiter.

Ghana Think Tank’s founder, Christopher Robbins, formed the organization 10 years ago after an experience he had in Benin while working in the Peace Corps. Robbins said that the kitchens in the houses in the area he was working in were very small and had no ventilation, and therefore got smoky.

In an attempt to fix this, one of his coworkers decided to attach a chimney to each kitchen, allowing the smoke from the cooking to escape. Robbins and his coworkers thought they had improved the lives of the villagers until the local malaria rates began to skyrocket. As it turns out, the smoke kept the mosquitos away.

This experience led Robbins to realize that developed countries were trying to solve the issues of cultures that they didn’t truly understand. By creating Ghana Think Tank, Robbins hoped to “develop the first world.”

A benefit of this flip in conventional power dynamics, according to Robbins, is that unlikely bonds are formed. Looking for help in places that people usually think of as needing help changes the perspectives of everyone involved and facilitates the formation of meaningful relationships.

Ghana Think Tank has partnered with the College for a new project intended to address climate change. The Think Tank has a mobile cart next to the entrance of WCMA where people can submit examples of the environmental problems they see on campus and in the greater Berkshire Area. Ghana Think Thank will send these submissions to think tanks in Morocco and Indonesia, and in the spring, will implement them on campus.

The talk at the kick-off event was enthralling — the stories and personal perspectives all made the event more like a captivating conversation rather than a mere information session. The information was provided in a clear and concise manner and did not overwhelm the audience with superfluous details. The College’s partnership with the Ghana Think Tank promises to be progressive and unique project that will better our campus and the surrounding area.

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