ARTIST: Janet Goldner
My residency seeks to address the discrepancy between policy makers and administrators and the people addressed by the policy. My idea comes from my many years of working in West Africa and thus is addressed first and foremost to the Department of State and others who work abroad. It may be equally valid for other agencies who work both abroad and domestically.
Experts and consultants are hired to solve local problems without adequate knowledge of or consultation with the local population about their real needs and concerns. There is an underlying assumption that because people are poor, don’t speak a European language, don’t read and write, they don’t understand their own problems or have ideas for to solve them. In other words, they must be stupid. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so poor and uneducated.
In my experience, local populations are well aware of their problems and have ideas for ingenious solutions that are less expensive and more effective than the outside experts.
My residency would facilitate visits and home-stays in the local areas for the government representatives so they could live for a short period of time (a week or two) amongst the population they have been hired to help. The consultants would then have time to get to know the local people and consult with them about their problems and help facilitate solutions. In this way the experts could collaborate with local populations to refine their solutions and facilitate the presentation of the ideas to the appropriate government officials for implementation.