Deborah Puntenney

Deborah Puntenney, PhD, currently holds the title of research associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University and is a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Chicago. She also operates her own research and consulting firm specializing in the areas of asset-based community development, community-based participatory research, program evaluation, and social justice strategies for philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. All of her work emphasizes strengthening neighborhood, nonprofit, philanthropic and other organizations through the design and implementation of asset-oriented strategies.

Deborah has been a colleague of John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the Asset-Based Community Development Institute for almost 25 years, and has contributed broadly to its community-building research. In addition to authoring many of the institute’s publications, Puntenney has extensive experience working directly with community groups designing community-based participatory research projects, and partnering with them on the implementation of those efforts. Her research has taken her beyond the traditional definition of community, exploring the application of asset-based community development principles to nonprofit and philanthropic settings, as well as to specific areas of interest, including aging and health.

Her current work in Rochester, New York, focuses on asset-based community development as an approach for addressing the social determinants of health. Deborah provides technical support to five community groups, and participates in the community-based participatory research effort associated with implementation and evaluation. She recently completed a project with KaBOOM! on a multi-community exploration of how providing playground builders with community building support impacts the way they leverage the assets they mobilized toward their playgrounds. Deborah is also working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a consultant on their National Culture of Health project, focusing on how engaged citizens can become effective co-producers of their own health and well being.

Deborah Puntenney has been published in several books and journals, including the following:

Puntenney, D. (2014). Asset-Mapping. In D. Coghlan & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Action Research. London: Sage Publications.

Puntenney, D., & Zappia, B. (2013). Place-Based Strategies for Addressing Health Disparities. In K. Fitzpatrick (Ed.), Poverty and Health: A Crisis Among America’s Most Vulnerable. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Grimm, K., Walker, J., & Puntenney, D. (2013). Improving Health/Reducing Inequity: Asset-Based Community Development. In K. Fitzpatrick (Ed.), Poverty and Health: A Crisis Among America’s Most Vulnerable. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Kretzmann, J., & Puntenney, D. (2010). Neighborhood Approaches to Asset Mobilization: Building Chicago’s West Side. In G. P. Green and A. Goetting (Eds.), Mobilizing Communities: Asset Building as a Community Development Strategy, pp. 112-29. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Grumm, C., Puntenney, D., & Katz-Kishawi, E. (2005). Women’s Biggest Contribution: A View of Social Change. In E. Clift (Ed.), Women, Philanthropy and Social Change: Visions for a Just Society, pp. 139-57. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.

Puntenney, D. (2000). Working at the Margins: Poor Mothers and Survival in the Inner City. In R. Hodson (Ed.), Marginal Employment: Research in the Sociology of Work, pp. 51-72. Stamford, CT: JAI Press.

Puntenney, D. (1999). The Work of Mothers: Strategies for Survival in an Inner-City Neighborhood. Journal of Poverty, 3, (4), pp. 63-92.

Lewis, D., Puntenney, D., & George, C. (1999). Welfare Reform in Illinois: Recent Efforts in the Context of the National Debate. In L. Joseph (Ed.), Families, Poverty, and Welfare Reform, pp. 99-138. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Puntenney, D. (1997). The Impact of Gang Violence on the Decisions of Everyday Life: Disjunctions Between Policy Assumptions and Community Conditions. Journal of Urban Affairs, 19, (2), pp. 143-61.

Deborah lives in Evanston, Illinois, but frequently visits family in California, North Carolina, New Zealand, and Washington, as well as friends and colleagues around the US and the world.


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