John Gaventa is an academic and activist with over 30 years experience, using research and education for the promotion of citizen action on poverty and social justice issues in various parts of the world. Currently, he is a professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in Great Britain, where he also is director of the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability. In his volunteer capacity, he serves as chair of the trustees of Oxfam (Great Britain), a large international NGO that carries out humanitarian, development, and advocacy work for the relief of poverty in 70 countries. From 1976 to 1994 he was a staff member and director of the Highlander Center, an historic research and education center working for grassroots empowerment and social justice in Appalachia and the American South. Uniquely combining work in the United States and internationally, his work has taken him to over 25 countries.
As an author, Gaventa has written widely on issues of power, citizen engagement, and participatory social action. His first book, Power and Powerlessness in an Appalachian Valley, received a number of awards. He also is co-editor of the book, Global Citizen Action. Currently, Gaventa is editor of the book series, Claiming Citizenship, which focuses on how citizens organize to claim their rights and to deepen democracy around the world.
In 1971 he received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University, where he received his PhD in 1975. He also has been the winner of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship.