Harry Boyte is founder of Public Achievement, a theory-based practice of citizen organizing to do public work for the common good that is used in schools, universities, and communities across the United States and in more than a dozen countries. Boyte has been an architect of a "public work" approach to civic engagement and democracy promotion, a conceptual framework on citizenship that has gained world-wide recognition for its theoretical innovations and its practical effectiveness.
Since coming to the Institute in 1987, Boyte has worked with a variety of partners in Minnesota, nationally, and internationally on community development, citizenship education, and civic renewal. Currently, Boyte is head of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College. He also serves on the board of Imagining America, a consortium of colleges and universities whose mission is to strengthen the public role and democratic purposes of the humanities, arts, and design. For several months each year, Boyte resides in South Africa, where is working with colleagues to analyze models of citizen democracy across Africa. Working with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, he co-directed Lessons from the Field, an in-depth look at what has happened to South African democracy since the election of President Nelson Mandela in 1994.
Boyte served as national coordinator of the New Citizenship (1993 to 1995), a broad nonpartisan effort to bridge the citizen-government gap. He presented New Citizenship findings to President Clinton, Vice President Gore and other administration leaders at a 1995 Camp David Seminar on the future of democracy, a presentation which helped to shape Clinton's "New Covenant" State of the Union that year. Boyte has also served as a senior advisor to the National Commission on Civic Renewal, and as national associate of the Kettering Foundation. He has worked with a variety of foundations, nonprofit, educational, neighborhood and citizen organizations concerned with community development, citizenship education, and civic renewal. In the 1960s, Boyte worked for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a field secretary with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the southern civil rights movement.
Boyte is author or co-author of a number of books including:
- The Citizen Solution: How You Can Make a Difference (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008)
- Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)
- Building America: The Democratic Promise of Public Work, with Nan Kari
(Temple University Press, 1996)
- Free Spaces: The Sources of Democratic Change in America, with Sara M. Evans (Harper & Row, 1986; University of Chicago, 1992)
His writings have appeared in over 70 publications, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, Christian Science Monitor, Democracy, Policy Review, Dissent, and PS: Political Science and Politics. His political commentary has appeared on CBS Morning and Evening News and National Public Radio.
Boyte earned a doctorate degree in political and social thought from the Union Institute.