John L. McKnight

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In his teachings and writings, John McKnight, co-founder and co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University, has echoed Alexis de Tocqueville’s appreciation of the value of healthy civic associations. As coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and author of the Careless Society, he has also expressed skepticism when it comes to the role of formal government agencies and professionalized social services in care-giving and community development efforts. Much of his work has focused on the under-appreciated “assets” provided by ordinary citizens, neighborhoods and informal associations.

“Many people think democracy depends on an informed electorate,” he noted in a recent conversation with National Civic Review contributing editor Albert Dzur. “To be informed they should deliberate together—the mode exemplified by the New England town meeting. I think that kind of associational activity is important but relatively rare. I don’t think Tocqueville was thinking about associations that were deliberative, and I don’t think there were very many of them.” Most associative life, McKnight suggested, is built around groups of people who come together because they have an affinity. Their focus is less often on “what to do” than “how to do it.” Read more of this article here

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