Invited Scholars Seminars – John McKnight – 2008


For nearly three decades, John McKnight has conducted research on social service delivery systems, health policy, community organizations, neighborhood policy, and institutional racism. He currently directs research projects focused on asset-based neighborhood development and methods of community building by incorporating marginalized people.

McKnight has been associated with many of the Institute’s major research projects since he joined the organization in 1969. These have included research on the urban determinants of health, law enforcement, urban disinvestment and metropolitan government, deinstitutionalized child welfare services, police anticrime programs, and the effects of the perception of crime upon community responses. He also directed the Chicago Innovations Forum, an IPR-based dialogue among neighborhood leaders and innovators in economic, political and social development.

Much of his recent work on asset-based community development is captured in McKnight’s co-authored book, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets (1993), which has circulated through a broad range of community, government, business, nonprofit, and educational institutions in the United States and Canada. Articles McKnight has written over the past two decades were published in The Careless Society (1995). McKnight serves on the Board of Directors of numerous community organizations including the Gamaliel Foundation and The National Training and Information Center. Before joining Northwestern, McKnight directed the Midwest office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Current Projects

The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute. This institute grew out of a project that evaluated the interrelationships of local associations, enterprises, and nonprofit organizations in cities around the country, and the effect of large public and private system policies upon their functions. Theories based on nationwide data gathered from over 100 neighborhoods in 20 cities on the community development potential of local assets such as schools, churches and parks, were refined and published in the book Building Communities from the Inside Out.

The next phase of the project involved a study of the uses and outcomes of the book’s model capacity inventory in neighborhoods across the United States. The workbook Guide to Capacity Inventories: Mobilizing the Community Skills of Local Residents (1997) documents the results of this investigation.
McKnight’s research team has also produced 10 additional guides to community building:

  • A Guide to Mapping and Mobilizing the Economic Capacities of Local Residents (1996)
  • A Guide to Mapping Local Business Assets and Mobilizing Local Business Capacities (1996)
  • A Guide to Mapping Consumer Expenditures and Mobilizing Consumer Expenditure Capacities (1996)
  • A Guide to Evaluating Asset-Based Community Development: Lessons, Challenges, and Opportunities (1997)
  • A Guide to Creating a Neighborhood Information Exchange: Building Communities by Connecting Local Skills and Knowledge (1998)
  • City-Sponsored Community Building: Savannah’s Grants for Blocks Story (1998)
  • Newspapers and Neighborhoods: Strategies for Achieving Responsible Coverage of Local Communities (1999)
  • A Guide to Mapping and Mobilizing the Associations in Local Neighborhoods (1999)
  • Leading by Stepping Back: A Guide for City Officials on Building Neighborhood Capacity (1999)
  • The Organization of Hope: A Workbook for Rural Asset-Based Community Development (2001)

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