ABCD Thought Leaders

Throughout the three-day workshop, we will have the privilege of hearing from thought leaders who will push our thinking further in asset-based development, neighbourhood work, and deepening community.

Meet our Thought Leaders

John McKnight

John McKnight 

Co-Director, Asset-Based Community Development Institute

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.

Cormac Russell

Cormac Russell

Managing Director, Nurture Development

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 the father of 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.  

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Al Etmanski

Author, Community Organizer, Social Entrepreneur

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.

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Jim Diers

Faculty, Asset-Based Community Development Institute

Jim Diers has a passion for getting people engaged with their communities and in the decisions that affect their lives. His work in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods was recognized with an Innovations Award from the Kennedy School of Government. He was appointed the first director of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods in 1988 where he served under three mayors over the next 14 years creating what some would say is a miracle of neighbors where he put his passion to work for a direct-action neighbourhood association, a community development corporation, a community foundation, and the nation's largest health care cooperative.

He teaches courses at the University of Washington and serves on the faculty of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Jim travels internationally to deliver speeches and presents workshops on neighbours and neighbourhoods. His book, Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way, is available in both English and Chinese editions.

Paul Born

Paul Born

Co-CEO Tamarack Institute, Vibrant Communities

Paul is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute and the Founder and Director of Vibrant Communities. He is the author of four books, including two Canadian best sellers. Paul is a global faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) and a senior fellow of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social innovators. 

Additional Speaker

Vickie Cammack

Senior Fellow, Caring, Community and Culture

Vickie has established many ground-breaking organizations dedicated to strengthening community and addressing social isolation including Tyze Personal Networks, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, Family Support Institute and PLAN Institute. Her unique response to the isolation and loneliness that underpin some of our most intractable health and social challenges – a network model of care, has been adopted internationally.

Vickie writes, consults and speaks internationally about the natural caring in our communities that takes every day by just about everyone. For the last ten years, Vickie has been exploring and applying concepts from the emergent field of social innovation to understand how social movements achieve lasting impact.

Vickie is a member of the Order of Canada. She is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal of Canada, the British Columbia Community Achievement Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and Simon Fraser University’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award.

Additional Speaker

Howard Lawrence

Co-Founder, Abundant Community Initiative

Howard is a co-founder of the Abundant Community Initiative with John McKnight and Peter Block. He has consulted on neighbourhood health across North America. Howard consulted with the City of Edmonton to spearhead Abundant Community Edmonton - a City sponsored, citizen-led ABCD neighbouring program - and now, does this work full-time in Edmonton’s Neighbourhood Services.

Howard has a passion for grassroots neighbourhood engagement and continues to work collaboratively with ABCD Institute, Tamarack Canada and others, to find ways to enable people to build neighbourly relationships and increase their local collective capacity.


Stay posted for additional panel and workshop guests!