John Dempsey Parker is an independent community development consultant and organizer.  For over twenty years, he has worked to cultivate resilient, self-reliant, and creative community leaders, change-makers, activists, and entrepreneurs.

John Parker engages leaders, nonprofits, congregations, funders, universities, tribes, and businesses around their ideas and initiatives.  He nurtures culturally appropriate and responsible leadership and collaborations to strengthen local organizing and locally organized initiatives.

John’s areas of focus include strengthening leadership, skills, strategies, assets, resources, and collaboratives around community and civic engagement, community-based economic development, restorative justice and cultural healing, as well as cultural heritage preservation and sustainable community tourism.

John also supports others in their vocational development – helping them discern how to share their time, talents, gifts, relationships, and resources with others.

John’s current partners, collaborators, and colleagues include the Institute for Emerging Issues at NCSU, the Duke Endowment‘s Rural Church Program Area, the NC Rural Center, the Beloved Community CenterRepairers of the BreachBartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, and Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity.  John splits his time between North Carolina, Louisiana, and other places, usually in the U.S. South.

John’s career has included directing a community development collaborative, community development finance, business and organizational development, teaching cultural and applied anthropology and nonprofit management, ethnographic research, and a variety of consulting work with small businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropic organizations.

John is a native from Moore County, North Carolina.  He received a BA at Wake Forest University in anthropology, international relations, and politics, a MA in applied anthropology from the University of Memphis, a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University, and a M.Div. from Duke Divinity School.

Contact John at

John’s guiding questions:

  • How do we nurture and grow cultures that cultivate and strengthen community?
  • What encourages generosity, hospitality, solidarity, and empowerment?
  • What nurtures healing, wellness, resilience, and self-reliance?
  • How can we identify, leverage, and share our individual and collective gifts and assets in ways that are life-giving, nurture creativity, sustain diverse collaborations, and cultivate commitment to place?
  • What and where are the times, spaces, and places to do this work?

Acknowledgements: As a student of humanity and the divine, a contemplative activist, and a participant in social justice and community building work, I owe a great deal to my study of anthropology, history, the Bible, Tao te Ching, the Yoga and Buddhist Sutras, and writings by indigenous and faith leaders, and in particular Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, and mystics…

I’d like to acknowledge a number of individuals who have been or are resources and support in my research, thinking, and living around this work:  David K. Evans (Wake Forest University Anthropology Dept.), Janis Foster (Community Foundation of Greater Memphis), Maria King (WNCCUMC), Nelson and Joyce Johnson (Beloved Community Center), Ched Myers (Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries), Helen Regis (Louisiana State University and the Neighborhood Story Project), Mikki Sager (Conservation Fund), Jeff Thigpen (Register of Deeds, Guilford County, NC), Robb Webb (Duke Endowment), and Brandon Wrencher (WNCCUMC).

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