The Ghana Think Tank is an international artist collective that outsources problems of the “first world” to be solved by “third world”. The Think Tank identifies community development challenges in cities throughout the United States and then assembles focus groups in developing countries to brainstorm solutions. The international exchanges results in an appreciation of cultural difference and an inverting of normative power structures.
The collective’s most recent project, American Riad, is a 3 year project that will transform formerly abandoned homes in Detroit’s North End into 8 homes with a shared courtyard. The project concept came from a Moroccan Think Tank working to develop solutions to what they described as the United States’s “problem of social isolation”. Ghana Think Tank co-founder, John Ewing, recalled the feedback from the Moroccan group “They said to us you need to stop this obsession with the single family homes...instead you need housing more like ours: That's communal housing around a common courtyard with a single entrance, then you will have community.“
Detroit’s North End neighborhood has seen a steady decrease in population over recent decades dropping from 17,000 to less than 10,000 in the last 20 years. The American Riad will cultivate community connectedness and attachment to place through the construction of this neighborhood partnership. In reflecting on the project, Ghana Think Tank member Carmen Montoya states “the thing I really like about this project is instead of demonizing Muslim culture we are looking to them for help where American solutions have failed.” Through innovative approaches to alternative housing, the American Riad project is certain to increase cultural appreciation of difference in the North End while also centering participant community voices in the process.