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Who you'll find on this page:


John McKnight

Cormac Russell

Donna Thomson

Al Etmanski

Howard Lawrence

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The Faculty

This is a rare opportunity for you to learn from two of the worlds top trainers in Asset Based Community Development for their first time together in Canada. 

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John McKnight 

John McKnight is Co-Director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, he 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 labeled 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 neighborhood 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 world-wide.

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 Neighborhoods.

McKnight has been active with many civil organizations. He co-founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, a unique health policy organization in Chicago. He also co-founded the Gamaliel Foundation, a national organization training neighbourhood organizers. He is also a founding board member of National People's Action, a nationwide organization of activist civic groups.

Cormac Russell.jpgCormac Russell 

Cormac Russell is a faculty member of the ABCD Institute and an internationally-renowned thought leader, trainer and Speaker. He has supported the establishment of more than 30 ABCD learning sites in Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, Canada, Sweden, Ireland and the UK. He is driven by a passionate belief in the importance of localism, economic and environmental sovereignty, and is a strong advocate for the protection of indigenous living and social justice.

Cormac —a long-time friend and collaborator with Professor John McKnight has published extensively in professional journals on Asset-Based approaches to Probation, Health, Ageing Well, Community Housing, Community Development and Disability.

Cormac is the Managing Director of Nurture Development, Cormac is father to five boys and is married to Colleen. Their family home is in Dublin, but they are currently spending a year as a family in Gloucestershire. 

Donna ThomsonDonna Thomson

Donna began her career as an actor, director and teacher. But in 1988, when her son Nicholas was born with severe disabilities, Donna embarked on her second career as a disability activist, author, consultant and writer.

In her book, "THE FOUR WALLS OF MY FREEDOM", Donna examines her personal family experience with caregiving, probing the ethics and economics of how families giving and receiving care can flourish in society. Donna examines how social innovation leading to practical solutions can help families thrive even in very challenging circumstances - a subject she blogs about regularly at her site "The Caregivers' Living Room" (www.donnathomson.com). Donna also writes extensively for magazines on the topics of eldercare, disability parenting and family caregiving.

Donna is the Special Advisor for Caregiving at Tyze Personal Networks and is a Senior Advisor to the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship. She is a board director of NeuroDevNet, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE). She is the co-founder of Lifetime Networks Ottawa, a PLAN affiliate and speaks often on the subject of integrated, coordinated networks of professional and personal support to ease the way for families giving care in the community. Donna is also an instructor at the Advocacy School (Ottawa, Canada), teaching families how to employ best practice political advocacy strategies when advocating for care. She consults to hospitals and research projects, representing the interests of patients and families.

Donna holds degrees in Fine Art (Theatre), Education and Theatre in Education. She has spoken on disability and family wellbeing extensively, including at the London School of Economics, the Skoll World Forum, and the International Centre for Evidence in Disability.

al_etmanski-842552-editedAl Etmanski 

Al is an internationally bestselling author and Canada’s thought leader on social innovation. An author, blogger, advocate and social entrepreneur, Al has specialized in innovative, multi-sector solutions to solving complex social challenges. Al is a founder of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Generation (SIG) initiative. He brings unprecedented expertise from the social innovation field as the co-founder of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) which has supported the creativity of families to address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability.

Howard_Bio_Pic-148967-editedHoward Lawrence 

Al is an internationally bestselling author and Canada’s thought leader on social innovation. An author, blogger, advocate and social entrepreneur, Al has specialized in innovative, multi-sector solutions to solving complex social challenges. Al is a founder of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Generation (SIG) initiative. He brings unprecedented expertise from the social innovation field as the co-founder of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) which has supported the creativity of families to address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability.