Harry Boyte


Harry C. Boyte is Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy at Augsburg College, founder of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, now merged into the Sabo Center of Democracy and Citizenship, and founder of the international youth empowerment and political education initiative Public Achievement, active in more than two dozen countries including the US, Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. From 1993 to 1995 Boyte coordinated Reinventing Citizenship, a consortium of academic and civic groups which worked with the White House Domestic Policy Council to analyze the gap between citizens and government. He presented findings to President Clinton and other administration leaders at a Camp David meeting on the future of Democracy, January 14, 1995, a meeting which shaped the “New Covenant” State of the Union address that year. In 2012 Boyte coordinated the American Commonwealth Partnership, a coalition on the public purposes of higher education invited by the White House to mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, establishing land grant universities.

Boyte in an architect of the public work approach to politics and citizenship, which has gained international recognition for its practical effectiveness (for instance, in citizen professionalism) as well as its theoretical innovations. He has authored and edited ten books on democracy, citizenship, and community organizing including The Backyard Revolution, Everyday Politics; Free Spaces, with Sara Evans, Building America, with Nan Kari, and most recently the edited collection, Democracy’s Education: Public Work, Citizenship, and the Future of Colleges and Universities. He has written more than 200 articles, appearing in Political Theory, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Public Administration Review, The Journal of African Political Science, and elsewhere, and writes regular blogs for Huffington Post. He is now writing a book, Pedagogy of the Empowered, on citizen politics using twenty-five years of case studies in Public Achievement and other settings.

Boyte is one of the co-founders of the transdisciplinary field of Civic Studies, the “intellectual component…of the movement to improve societies by engaging their citizens,” as Tufts University describes it (activecitizen.tufts.edu/civic-studies/). He gave the 2017 John Dewey Society Lecture for the John Dewey Society and AERA.

Harry Boyte lives and works part of the year in South Africa. His wife, Marie-Louise Ström, is a long time grassroots democracy educator. In the 1960s, Boyte worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Martin Luther King, and subsequently did community organizing in poor white communities in Durham, North Carolina.