Author Biographies :: John McKnight

John McKnight

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

Articles by this Author…

The Problem With Problems

Posted on September 28, 2017 in Posts

One of the reasons we may have so little productive citizen creativity at the local level is that people buy into the belief that the purpose of getting together is to deal with a problem. There is another purpose that is probably more important: engagement that mobilizes citizen creativity and contributions.… read more »

Who Has the Skills to Build Community? We All Do

Posted on September 27, 2017 in Posts

Transcription of John and Peter's September 12th conversation with YES! Magazine co-founder Sarah van Gelder on her 12,000-mile cross-country journey learning from people who were re-making America from the ground up and how it led to starting up a new project: PeoplesHub, an online space where communities can learn and share the skills of making powerful change.… read more »

How Community Animators Work Around the World

Posted on July 30, 2017 in Posts

Transcription of John and Peter's July 25th conversation with Cormac Russell on his work with communities, agencies, NGOs and governments using ABCD and other strengths-based approaches in Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia.… read more »

How Community Action Shapes Health

Posted on June 27, 2017 in Posts

Deborah Puntenney has been a colleague of John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the Asset-Based Community Development Institute for 25 years. In this transcribed conversation, John and Peter talk with her about how her work focuses on engaging citizens to become effective co-producers of their own health and well-being.… read more »

In Search of the Tie That Binds

Posted on June 27, 2017 in Posts

What is the tie that binds people on a block? How did most North Americans in a very short period of time become isolated in space? For people interested in collective/communal decision making, several communities in the U.S. and Canada are experimenting with ways to create ties among their citizens.… read more »

The Affinity Dilemma

Posted on May 11, 2017 in Posts

If the heart of our social problems is “like-mindedness,” the nature of associational affinity is one cause of the problem. Local examples/possibilities of “different mindedness” may be the way serious citizen dialogue can develop in relatively homogeneous places.… read more »

A Neighborhood Impact Statement: Changing the Burden of Proof

Posted on March 9, 2017 in Posts

John outlines a process that a coalition of neighborhood associations might use with proposed institutional interventions to demonstrate in advance positive impacts measured against local community standards.… read more »

An Educating Neighborhood

Posted on January 9, 2017 in Posts

From the premise of the African saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” John explains how largely untapped neighborhood educational assets can be activated to provide incredible learning opportunities for our children.… read more »

You Are the Guest

Posted on December 14, 2016 in Posts

John and Peter share some of their latest thinking on building new connections and relationships to strengthen our neighborhoods and communities in a transcription of their December 12, 2016 online / dial-up dialog.… read more »

You Are the Guest: Chat Box Comments

Posted on December 14, 2016 in Posts

Some of the issues raised by listeners, and their responses to John and Peter's dialog on their latest thinking, grabbed from the conversation's chat box on December 12, 2016.… read more »

The Gift of Fallibility

Posted on July 27, 2016 in Posts

Transcribed highlights from John and Peter's wide-ranging conversation on "The Gift of Fallibility" touch on competition in our society, perfectionism and the wish for predictability and control, the unintended consequences of technology, and many other concerns in shifting toward a community way of thinking and acting.… read more »

Neighbors As Citizens Making Democracy Work

Posted on May 9, 2016 in Posts

Transcribed highlights from John and Peter's conversation with Kettering Foundation president and CEO David Mathews on the role of citizens in making democracy work as it should. For more than three decades, David has led the Foundation’s work with communities and institutions from the citizen's perspective: "We trade what we have learned for what they are learning, and both benefit.”… read more »

Abundant Community Edmonton

Posted on March 30, 2016 in Posts

John and Peter join Howard Lawrence and Anne Harvey to talk about the unique framework they developed in Edmonton to create more connected and capable neighborhoods.… read more »

Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight in Conversation

Posted on March 23, 2016 in Posts

Transcript of Peter, Walter and John's wide-ranging conversation on March 8, 2016 inspired by their new book, "An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture," moderated by Peter Pula and Michelle Strutzenberger of Axiom News.… read more »

Signs of the Times

Posted on February 29, 2016 in Posts

An excerpt from "An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture," the latest book by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight.… read more »

A Place at the Table

Posted on August 27, 2015 in Posts

No lines ... no meal tickets ... no clothes piled on tables to pick through. These are just a couple of the "radical hospitality" ideas John and Peter talk about with Edd Conboy of Philadelphia's Broad Street Ministry in these transcribed highlights of their August 8, 2015 conversation.… read more »

A Place at the Table (audio)

Posted on August 27, 2015 in Stories

No lines ... no meal tickets ... no clothes piled on tables to pick through. John and Peter talk with Edd Conboy, Director of Social Services and the Counseling Center at Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia, about different ways people and communities can shift from a scarcity, helplessness and hopelessness stance to one of abundance, gifts and empowerment in their work with people on the margins.… read more »

Giving In to Joy

Posted on August 10, 2015 in Posts

John and Peter’s recent online/dial-up conversation with Edd Conboy inspired a thought-provoking email exchange with Jeannie Masterson on scarcity, gifts, joy and abundance. Enjoy!… read more »

Worms Everywhere

Posted on July 27, 2015 in Posts

What we’re looking for is there, if we could see it.… read more »

Making Space for Community

Posted on June 16, 2015 in Stories

John, Peter and architect, community planner and author Ross Chapin, the leader in defining and designing pocket neighborhoods, talk about how scale and design impact the quality of our conversations, relationships and our sense of community.… read more »

One-Room School and Reclaiming Economic Sovereignty

Posted on February 9, 2015 in Posts

What does a one-room schoolhouse in Michigan have to do with Greece, Europe, Democracy and the now floundering economic globalization experiment?… read more »

Two Kinds of Community Organizing

Posted on March 25, 2014 in Posts

John describes two different approaches to community organizing in a Q & A session on community development.… read more »

A Children's Guide to Dismantling Our Economy

Posted on January 7, 2014 in Posts

The holidays are a win-win season for toy makers, youthful consumers and celebratory consumerism. We look with dismay at the possibility that this cycle might be broken. John reminds us how in one neighborhood, a century ago, kids didn't buy fun; they created it with other kids in the community.… read more »

Escaping to Freedom of Association and Neighborliness

Posted on September 23, 2013 in Posts

When Nicole Cashin decided to "escape from Facebook" she found the freedom and time to truly connect with her community of friends and neighbors.… read more »

Local Community and Major Movements

Posted on August 27, 2013 in Posts

In a video interview by Canada's Social Innovation Generation, John explains why all big change grows from the small stuff in local communities.… read more »

Associations and Conspiracies

Posted on August 6, 2013 in Posts

There's a reason dictators around the world and through time have viewed associations as conspiracies. John reflects on associational life as the most powerful force neighborhoods have to build community and produce positive change.… read more »

True Stories

Posted on July 8, 2013 in Posts

John tells a story to show the difference between the world of facts, data, systematic information and the community's way of knowing: the story. And the most important thing in strong communities is having true stories, stories that match our experience.… read more »

Sensible Life ~ A Thought

Posted on May 1, 2013 in Posts

John reminds us that relationships in a personal world are the antidote to following the siren call of progress in a tool-ruled world.… read more »

Flying Down

Posted on April 9, 2013 in Posts

John reminds us that progress is not all that it seems.… read more »

Modern Mentoring

Posted on February 25, 2013 in Posts

In response to a neighborhood’s concern about youth problems and violence, John takes a gifts-minded look at how to connect young people to productive adults and offer a means to express their own constructive capacities.… read more »

The Stranger

Posted on January 31, 2013 in Posts

The full meaning of what it means to be a hospitable neighborhood and how our lives are enriched by welcoming people we don't know into our community.… read more »

Safety and Security: A Neighborhood Necessity

Posted on January 7, 2013 in Posts

An excerpt on safety and security from John and Peter's book. They say that safety and security, health, the well-being of children, the environment and the land, an enterprising economy, food and care for those on the margin are the seven neighborhood necessities that are fulfilled not by acting as consumers but as citizens of an abundant community creating our own future with our neighbors.… read more »

Government Is Not the Problem

Posted on November 6, 2012 in Posts

John and Peter reflect on how all the talk that government is the problem actually deflects our attention from the privatization that now runs our culture.… read more »

Community Building through Gifts

Posted on October 1, 2012 in Posts

John talks about how communities get built by seeing that the principal resource people have for the task is their gifts, skills, talents, capacities.… read more »

You Can't Command Care

Posted on September 7, 2012 in Posts

Institutional systems can command many behaviors but they cannot command care. Care is the commitment of one person to another, from the heart. It is the domain of people who come together in community.… read more »

We Are the Authority

Posted on August 17, 2012 in Posts

How the Westside Health Authority started with neighbors asking a simple question: What can WE do about our health, and do it our way?… read more »

The Real Disability Is Disconnection

Posted on July 12, 2012 in Posts

John tells the story of what he learned traveling across Canada with Pat Worth, the founder of People First.… read more »

The Institutional Assumption

Posted on June 29, 2012 in Posts

John reflects on how we are misled by the “institutional assumption” in our thinking about change — for example, thinking in terms of medical care, clinics, insurance, outreach instead of health — and what happens when we instead see community life as the source of the outcome we seek.… read more »

Taking Back Our Children

Posted on May 29, 2012 in Posts

In a very real sense, the kids in our juvenile corrections institutions today are our children. Until we take responsibility for the children we exile to juvenile corrections, we remain unproductive communities. A real community is one where we see that young people we have exiled have all kinds of gifts and we organize ourselves to show our belief in that fact.… read more »

Learning from Other Neighborhoods

Posted on May 7, 2012 in Posts

Who did it? Are they like me? John tells why these questions home in on reasons why learning from other neighborhoods is more effective in community building than professional intervention.… read more »

Community Abundance Is Its Gifts

Posted on April 26, 2012 in Posts

In sharing our gifts in associational life, we have the power to produce the future we envision. We are not consumers. We are not clients. We are citizens with the power to make powerful communities.… read more »

This Land Is My Land

Posted on April 10, 2012 in Posts

John tells of wonderful possibilities like community ovens when neighbors decide for themselves how to use public lands.… read more »

Citizen Cop Out

Posted on March 9, 2012 in Posts

So many community meetings are often a time of blaming and finger-pointing — a way for citizens to cop out. John asks in this short clip, What would you do differently?… read more »

Fallibility: The Value of Imperfection

Posted on January 31, 2012 in Posts

The capacities of an abundant community are the core elements that need to be visible and manifest to create functional families and neighborhoods. One of the capacities of an abundant community is the ability to accept people’s fallibility.… read more »

Resolving to Rediscover Entertainment in the New Year

Posted on December 30, 2011 in Posts

Instead of continuing to be consumers of commercial entertainment, why not have our New Year's resolutions include creating an enjoyable neighborhood and becoming real neighbors celebrating life together?… read more »

How to Teach Children to Lose by Winning

Posted on December 6, 2011 in Posts

When we admit that most of us don’t really know our neighbors, we are revealing that the primary site for genuine cooperation is absent from our lives.… read more »

Capacity Building Beyond Community Services

Posted on October 31, 2011 in Posts

John explores the differences between “care” and “service” in this segment from his video interview with The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and explains why systems cannot provide care.… read more »

How to Reduce the National Debt by 30 Trillion Dollars

Posted on October 10, 2011 in Posts

The “obesity problem” isn’t really about overeating. It is about people who abandoned their historic culture and entered a culture of market-directed consumption. Communities are the source of life-supporting cultures. And, within communities are the abundant capacities of productive citizens to grow a new future.… read more »

Lifting the Burdens of Parenting

Posted on September 22, 2011 in Posts

For many people, “parenting” is a word describing a burden. Usually, they’re correct because they’re carrying an unprecedented load, heaped on their backs throughout the twentieth century.… read more »

Why Families Fall Apart

Posted on August 16, 2011 in Posts

We delude ourselves if we think our high divorce rates are caused by interpersonal problems and disagreements. It’s not that people are not getting along. It is that they have no reason to be together because they have no functions.… read more »

Why Families Fall Apart 3

Posted on August 16, 2011 in Posts

We delude ourselves if we think our high divorce rates are caused by interpersonal problems and disagreements. It’s not that people are not getting along. It is that they have no reason to be together because they have no functions.… read more »

It Takes A Village to Educate a Child

Posted on July 7, 2011 in Posts

The neighborhood, like the village of old, has much of what is needed to educate the children when local school districts cut budgets. The work is to revive our neighborhood capacity to be responsible to, and for, our young people.… read more »

Enterprising Economy

Posted on June 23, 2011 in Posts

A connected and competent community has a vision, culture and commitment that can uniquely assure our sense of well-being and happiness. This source of satisfaction is complete in and of itself — it is not dependent on systems or our next purchase.… read more »

Support Community-Building Clergy

Posted on June 15, 2011 in Posts

Faith communities can be at the center of community renewal if they avoid professional therapeutic techniques and look to local networks of support when neighbors face the "midnights of their lives."… read more »

The Art of Neighboring ... Continued

Posted on June 14, 2011 in Stories

Don and Terry Vande Krol came up with a simple initiative to build community in the neighborhood around them… read more »

5 Questions to Awaken Your Functional Family

Posted on June 9, 2011 in Posts

Taken to heart, these five questions build community, develop neighborhood competence and give us tools that cannot be purchased from professional service providers.… read more »

The Good Life? It’s Close to Home

Posted on June 8, 2011 in Posts

Rebuilding families and neighborhoods around the gifts each of us offers… read more »

Rallying the Strength of Community

Posted on June 1, 2011 in Posts

A first-hand account of the guidance and support that comes from a community of friends through the "clearness" process.… read more »

The Therapeutic Neighborhood

Posted on May 9, 2011 in Posts

If you have a deeply troubling personal problem, where do you turn? To a cleric? A psychologist? A counselor? A therapist? What about going to a group of your neighbors? They might be more helpful than the professionals.… read more »

Growing Food, Knowledge and Community

Posted on May 5, 2011 in Stories

From dairy farm to "learning garden," Joan Horwitt promotes healthy eating and, in the process, community.… read more »

Escaping the World of Non-sense

Posted on April 25, 2011 in Posts

The neighborhood is the refuge from electrical non-sense… read more »

Our Abundant Communities

Posted on April 25, 2011 in Posts

John, Peter and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann explore themes of power and patriarchy; human fallibility and gifts; and accumulation and abundance in building and sustaining community in these uncut videos from their two days at Trinity University, San Antonio, for the 2011 Willson Lectures.… read more »

ABCD in Action

Posted on April 14, 2011 in Stories

Check out ABCD in Action for a look at current practice in Asset Based Community Development… read more »

How Much Harm Do Social Services Do?

Posted on April 4, 2011 in Posts

What is the role of social service agencies in undercutting the power of families and neighborhoods to solve their own problems?… read more »

The Neighborhood Plague

Posted on March 23, 2011 in Posts

As many people are wounded by joblessness and homelessness, we should resist responses that do not recognize our neighborhood crisis as economic.… read more »

Leveraging Capacity for Change

Posted on March 14, 2011 in Stories

From a recent newsletter from the New Economics Institute, models of neighborhood initiatives then and now.… read more »

Powering America

Posted on March 1, 2011 in Posts

Neighborhood power results when we come together to create something for ourselves — from ourselves. This is the power of citizens engaged in community building.… read more »

President Obama's Speech Forgets the Primary Educators

Posted on January 26, 2011 in Posts

President Obama's advice to parents to support their children to achieve in school misses the most important thing they can do… read more »

Opening the Neighborhood Treasure Chest

Posted on January 11, 2011 in Posts

Increasing numbers of Americans are neighborless. They often admit that they really don’t know the people who live around them — except to say hello.… read more »

Jackie Kennedy’s Hidden Gift

Posted on December 12, 2010 in Posts

All leaders are fallible and flawed, but sometimes their fallibility can inspire.… read more »

Don't Ask Your Doctor How to Live Longer; Ask Hispanic Families

Posted on November 5, 2010 in Posts

Hispanic families and their social relationships might teach us how to recapture the health-giving power of our own communities.… read more »

Beware the Invasion of the Needs Surveyors

Posted on October 5, 2010 in Posts

There is a growing movement mobilizing the skills of local Americans and the resources of their local communities that has escaped the disabling effects of “needs needers.” These pioneers are remaking America in a new image.… read more »

Repairing Community

Posted on September 15, 2010 in Posts

As we create functions for families surrounded by supportive neighbors, the problems of "broken communities" will recede.… read more »

Are We Raising Care-less Children?

Posted on August 22, 2010 in Posts

What can families and neighborhoods do to counteract eroding empathy in our young people?… read more »

Breaking Barriers to Neighborliness

Posted on August 2, 2010 in Posts

There are many barriers to neighborliness these days. What are some of the ways we can break down these walls?… read more »

The Art of Neighboring

Posted on July 26, 2010 in Stories

In North Port, FL, a relatively new community, Don Vande Krol felt he needed to know his neighbors.… read more »

What Is a Neighbor?

Posted on July 18, 2010 in Posts

My Dad, like lots of people back in the Great Depression, had a greeting, “Hi, neighbor.” What he meant was, “We’re in this boat together.” He expected neighbors to help him if he was down and out.… read more »

Share Some Sugar Community Website

Posted on July 14, 2010 in Stories

Why buy when you can borrow?… read more »

Two Kinds of Community Organizing

Posted on July 7, 2010 in Posts

Advocacy organizing and neighborhood organizing serve two different goals. At best, we should be locally organized to do both.… read more »

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

Posted on June 28, 2010 in Posts

The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is universally agreed to with enthusiasm but when we ask most people about how the saying is applied in their neighborhood, the answer leads to two more questions and opens great opportunities.… read more »

Gifts, Skills, Interests and Passions: The Glue That Holds Communities Together

Posted on June 19, 2010 in Posts

Whenever a neighborhood comes together in powerful and satisfying ways, it is because two things have happened: they found out about each other’s gifts, and they have made new connections based on them. The sum of the two is what “glues” a neighborhood together.… read more »