New Faces at KF: Ángela Navarrete-Cruz

Ángela Navarrete-Cruz is one of this year’s international research residents at the foundation. We recently sat down for a quick chat with Ángela to talk about her work back home in Colombia and what she hopes to accomplish during her stay in Dayton. KF: Can you tell us a little bit about your work in Colombia? Ángela: I work for a foundation. The name of the foundation is FUNDEAMBIENTE. We work with rural communities and with education problems. What we want to do is to improve the dialogue between communities in my country. They wanted me to come here because we want to learn how to strengthen practices on how to begin the social work in the better way. How did you first hear about the Kettering Foundation? I was working at the University of Ibague. Ibague is a city located about 200 miles away from Bogota, the capitol of Colombia. I started teaching the theory of democracy at the University. I also want to start a program in deliberative democracy, which is not easy because it requires a lot of commitment. When I started to work with the university, I met Professor Gabriel Murillo. He made the contact and finally the foundation invited me to DDW in 2012. What kind of work were you doing before you arrived at the foundation? I was working at the National Trade Association, and I was a project manager. My husband and I decided to go to Ibague and that's the reason I started to work with the university. But previously I did a lot of social work. What about Kettering’s ideas appealed to you? At the beginning it was hard for me to understand the focus of the foundation and about their relationships between citizens, because our democracy in Colombia is very state-centered. So it was very interesting for me to realize that here in America, you have very similar problems, and you are facing them with this change of perspective. And that was something that really spoke to me when I began to know the foundation, this focus on the citizens, on the networks that you have with Universities and centers for public life. And what are you learning while you’re here? I have very general questions about the theory of deliberative democracy. And I'm trying to understand how it is focused on the citizens, the relations between citizens, instead of focusing on the relationship between citizens and the government. I also want to know if other countries, like Colombia, are capable of having these kinds of deliberative practices. I believe in the potentiality of all countries to develop these kind of practices. How do you hope to apply this work once you return to Colombia? I want to apply this work to rural sociology and strengthen my abilities to work with specific communities with my foundation. What’s something you think Americans would be surprised to know about democracy in your country? There are people working to strengthen democracy in Colombia. I think, probably you would be surprised how democracy can adapt to another context and situations. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you since you’ve been in Dayton? Well, I think my experience with the snow was very funny because at the beginning I didn't know the snow at all, because in Colombia, we don't have the snow. And the first day when my husband came here, he fell [laughs]! So that was funny for me [laughs]. And tornado warnings; we don't have tornadoes in Colombia. My husband and I were very scared. We didn't know what to do. But, at the end it was funny for us [laughs].