John McKnight

photo of John Mcknight

John McKnight is the co-founder of ABCD – Asset Based Community Development – an institute, books, world leadership. His remarkable thought leadership has a very special connection to the Toronto Summer Institutes. John is one of the founding faculty members and Hosts of the Summer Institutes – and has been relentlessly consistent in making space in his calendar to lead a module and ABCD in Action every year – for over 30 years!! That is commitment – and friendship.

John McKnight – a creative selection:

Co-Director, Asset-Based Community Development Institute

John McKnight’s remarkable thought leadership has a very special connection to the Toronto Summer Institutes. John is one of the founding faculty members – and has been relentlessly consistent in making space in his calendar to lead a module – every year – for over 30 years.!! That is commitment – and friendship.

John holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Waterloo, Canada and is Professor Emeritus of Communications Studies and Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. For more than four decades his research and teaching have focused on social service delivery systems, health policy, community organization, neighbourhood policy and the incorporation of labelled people into community life. John leads a group of more than 50 fellows around the world and has mentored the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama.

As a result of a national study of local neighbourhood initiatives, McKnight and his long-time colleague, Jody Kretzmann, created the Asset-Based Community Development strategy for community building. Together, they co-authored the basic guide to asset-based community development, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Identifying and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets. This book has become one of the nation’s best-selling guides to community development, and the methods it outlines are now utilized worldwide.

McKnight has also written two additional books – The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits (which came out of a widely popular CBC radio Canada series) and, together with co-author Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods.

The Learnings of JohnMcKnight:

This compilation of learnings written by John McKnight are ideas and thoughts that will help you understand the Asset-Based Community Development approach and through examples show how the different players (individuals, association, profit, non-profit and government) can support and foster an asset approach.

These learnings were initially written for the Kettering Foundation. They are based on McKnight’s experiences over 63 years as a neighbourhood organizer, trainer and author. If you have an interest in implementing any of these learnings in a neighbourhood you can contact John McKnight at


The ABCD Institute has courses – and an extensive collection of resources – workshops plus and many of the resources are free.

abcd Publications

Throughout more than 30 years of community organizing and community development work, Kretzmann and McKnight gathered the stories of residents who built stronger neighborhoods by focusing on their strengths instead of their deficiencies. These stories are brought together in Building Communities from the Inside Out, the publication that launched the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Now a must-have volume for community builders around the nation and the world, the Green Book, as it is fondly known, also launched the development of an extensive library of community building publications. 

Kretzmann and McKnight encourage ABCD faculty members in the communities where they work to capture their own asset-based community development efforts into publications to be shared with community builders everywhere

Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets (1993).

Across the United States, communities are in trouble. In our cities, economies sputter, social ties weaken, and political power fades. But everywhere, creative local leaders are fighting back, rebuilding neighborhoods and communities. And they are succeeding by starting with what they already have. In the face of diminished prospects for outside help, they are turning first of all to their neighbors and to the local citizens associations and institutions that lie at the heart of their community.

This guide to what the authors call “asset-based community development” summarizes lessons learned by studying successful community-building initiatives in hundreds of neighborhoods across the United States. It outlines in simple, “neighborhood-friendly” terms what local communities can do to start their own journeys down the path of asset-based development. This guide will be helpful to local community leaders, leaders of local associations and institutions, government officials, and leaders in the philanthropic and business communities who wish to support effective community-building strategies. 

Download the introduction from Building Communities from the Inside Out​
Order the book from ACTA Publications.

John McKnight – Video’s and DVD’s

Barack Obama – My Student! – VIDEO

John McKnight – DVD’s

A selection of Audio clips of John McKnight