The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Promoting Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration and Inclusion
MNDisability.gov

Professor John McKnight:
Capacity Building Beyond Community Services

    << Previous           Return to Index           Next >>

How did you become interested in neighborhoods?


I actually got interested in neighborhoods because, when I was in high school, I read a book called Reveille for Radicals, and the author of this book is a fairly famous man in the world of community organizing named Saul Alinsky, and Saul had written this book about his method of organizing a working class neighborhood in Chicago called Back of Yards so the people there were better able to make things better and to get the institutions outside to be fair, nondiscriminatory, etc.

And when I read that book about what he had done, I thought, now that's something I'd like to do. And because he was in Chicago and I just happened to come to a university in Chicago, I was coming to the fountainhead of... the then-developing neighborhood organizing movement.

So I began to associate with the young neighborhood organizers that he had trained or was training, and then, when I got out of the service, I just came back and so joined that movement. But what really got me into it was reading a book in high school that caught my fancy. I suppose some people read books about architects and say, "Gee, I'd like to be an architect," but I read a book about neighborhood organizing, and I said, "Gee, I'd like to be a neighborhood organizer."

When I was a kid, where we lived in a little town, the library was a block away. And there wasn't an awful lot to do, and so one of the things I would do in the evening after dinner was I'd go over to the library, and I would go read Popular Mechanics and magazines, but I also then began to read some of the books, and, ah, the nonfiction books were all alphabetical by the title...by the author's name.

So I actually decided—I liked nonfiction, I didn't care much for the fiction—that I would just start reading, reading all the nonfiction books. Everything seemed interesting to me. And so Saul Alinsky's name, Alinsky started with an "A" right? So he was in the A books, the ones at the beginning. Now I think I actually got halfway through the B's before I gave up on this project [Laughs] but the actual reason I got to that book is I knew nothing about it; I was just reading nonfiction books at a small library that started…where the author's name started with A, so you want to talk about happenstance, that's it.

    << Previous           Return to Index           Next >>

©2014 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
 370 Centennial Office Building  658 Cedar Street   St. Paul, Minnesota 55155 
Phone: 651.296.4018   Toll-free number: 877.348.0505   MN Relay Service: 800.627.3529 OR 711   Fax:651.297.7200 
Email: admin.dd@state.mn.us   View Privacy Policy   An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.