Dr. John Gaventa

Director, Coady International Institute and VP of International Development, StFX

John Gaventa is a political sociologist, educator and civil society practitioner with extensive experience of research, training and organizational leadership across the globe. As an academic researcher, he has worked extensively on areas of international development, citizen participation and action, participatory methods of research and learning; power and empowerment; participatory governance; global citizenship and social movements, and grassroots organization.

He has also served as a leader of civil society organizations, including director of the Highlander Center in the United States, and chair of Oxfam Great Britain. He has a particular interest in linking research and education to development practice and social change.  A former Rhodes Scholar and MacArthur Prize Fellow, he was most recently a Professor in the Participation, Power and Social Change team at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. 

For a list of publications, click here.


Educational Qualifications


D. Phil., Politics, Oxford University (Nuffield College)


B.A., Vanderbilt University, Politics, Sociology, and Philosophy (Magna cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa)

Awards and Honours

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) 2013.

Rhodes Scholarship (1971-75); MacArthur Prize Fellowship (1981 – 86); five awards for Power and Powerlessness book, including Woodrow Wilson Book Award from American Political Science Association. This book has now sold over 35,000 copies.

Employment History

1996 - 2001

Professor and Research Fellow in the Power, Participation and Social Change team, Institute of Development Studies, the University of Sussex (promoted to Professor 2004)

1986 - 1996

Professor of Sociology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee. Assistant Professor (1986-91), Associate Professor (1991-95)

1994 - 1996

Co-founder and co-director, Community Partnership Center, University of Tennessee

1976 - 1993

Director (1989-93) and co-director of research (1976-1989) Highlander Research and Education Center, an NGO based in the United States with a 75-year history of research and education for development in areas of rights, poverty, the environment, and grassroots leadership training, including linking North and South.

Leadership and Management Experience

2000 - 2011

Director, Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability- a network of some 60 researchers and NGO practitioners in eight countries, funded by DFID (approximately £7.5 million over 10 years)

2006 -

Chair, Council of Trustees, Oxfam GB (Council member since 2004)

2000 - 2006

Director, Citizen Participation and Local Governance Programme (LOGOLink) – an international network for civil society organisations working on participation and governance issues, with regional partners in 8 countries, funded by the Ford Foundation (approximately $3 million over 6 years)

1998 - 2005

Team Leader, IDS Participation Group (developed the team from 4 to over 20 people), including fundraising and management of multiple collaborative research and learning programmes



Globalizing Citizen Engagements (co-editor with Rajesh Tandon) London: Zed Books 


Citizen Action and National Policy Reform (co-editor with Rosemary McGee) London: Zed Books

2004 - 2010

Series editor, Claiming Citizenship: Rights, Participation and Accountability, London: Zed Books (8 volumes)


Unpacking Policy Processes: Actors, Knowledge and Spaces (co-editor with Karen Brock and Rosemary McGee), Kampala: Fountain Press and Oxford: Africa Book Collective


Global Citizen Action (co-editor with Michael Edwards), Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner and London: Earthscan


Learning From Change: Issues and Experiences in Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (co-editor with Estrella et al.), London: IT Publications


We Make the Road By Walking:  Conversations on Education and Social Change (with Brenda Bell and John Peters (eds.)), by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, Philadelphia, PA:  Temple University Press


Communities in Economic Crisis (with Barbara Smith and Alex Willingham (eds.)), Philadelphia, PA:  Temple University Press


Who Owns Appalachia? (with the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force), Lexington, KY:  University of Kentucky Press.  (Gaventa served as co-coordinator of research and co-author of this publication)


Power and Powerlessness in an Appalachian Valley, Oxford, UK: Clarendon and Urbana, IL: Illinois University Press

Communication and dissemination activities

As a publicly engaged researcher and academic, John Gaventa has also published a number of other books, articles and policy briefings designed for practitioners, policy makers and donor audiences.  Many of these may be found at the websites of the Citizenship DRC and of the Participation team at IDS .

With Jethro Pettit and Laura Cornish, he also has created the Powercube website and has engaged with a number of practitioners on application of this tool. He is a strong communicator and travels extensively as a speaker and resource person on his research themes, every year participating in a dozen or more workshops, lectures or workshops for broad audiences.