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A Conversation 30 Years in the Making

Updated: Mar 9

In 1993, on the heals of years of research on, and thousands of interviews with people in, communities from across the US, John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann published a seminal book called Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. The book named the core principles that healthy, strong, resilient communities practice. These core principles became the foundation for what has become a global movement under the banner of Asset Based Community Development, or ABCD. A key insight of ABCD is that human flourishing is best nurtured and sustained when our efforts are relationally-oriented, place-centered, gift-based, radically inclusive, and built from the inside-out. John McKnight has gone on to write numerous articles, papers, and books, including co-authoring with Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. He also co-founded the ABCD Institute.


Many thought leaders and community builders have emerged to add to our understanding of these core principles, and how they are practically lived out in neighborhoods, small towns, and communities of all kinds. Cormac Russell, Director of ABCD Europe, Faculty of the ABCD Institute, and Managing Director of Nurture Development, is one name that stands out from among the crowd. His clarity, energy, and passion for re-centering the role of citizens and communities in the work of crafting human flourishing is unsurpassed. A sought-after speaker, he, too, has authored numerous pieces, including Rekindling Democracy: A Professional's Guide to Working in Citizen Space.


John McKnight and Cormac Russell have joined forces to write The Connected Community: Discovering the Health, Wealth, and Power of Neighborhoods, due out in September. In a post about the book, Cormac writes, "Our journey is towards what we can do together, neighbor-to-neighbor, as we re-connect and re-organize to become the primary producers of our health, wealth and loving power. This is a journey everyone can join; everyone’s gifts are needed. As well as building community power to contribute towards our preferred futures, we can strengthen our collective voice to ensure that outside actors supplement our efforts, not displace or replace them."


The work of Great Lakes Urban has been profoundly influenced by both John McKnight and Cormac Russell. As Jay Van Groningen, Great Lakes Urban board member and ABCD authority says, "it's hard to overstate the impact that the writings and work of McKnight and Russell have had on communities globally." Now, nearly 30 years after the publishing of the first book, on March 9, John McKnight and Cormac Russell joined us for our first Lunch+Learn of 2022. Our quarterly Lunch+Learn events are hour-long virtual conversions with the people building a more connected world. They are an opportunity get inspired, ask questions, and get some ideas to try in your community. Below is a recording of the event.

Whether you were able to attend the event or not, you will gain immensely by digging deeper into McKnight's and Russell's work. Below are some places to get started.


The ABCD Institute website that includes many of Russell's and McKnight's writings is HERE


John McKnight:

McKnight's website is HERE McKnight's Learnings are HERE

McKnight's bibliography of writings is HERE

The website for Abundant Communities with McKnight's blogs is HERE

ABCD in Action with McKnight's blogs is HERE


Cormac Russell:

Nurture Development's website with Russell's blogs is HERE

Russell's TED Talk about ABCD is HERE

A post about Connected Communities, due out in September, is HERE

The website for Rekindling Democracy is HERE

The Community Renewal Centre website with ABCD training resources is HERE




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