Headshot of Dr. Kenwyn Smith

Kenwyn Smith, PhD

  • Professor

3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building, Room C17
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
  • office: 215.898.1238
  • fax: 215.573.2099

Dr. Smith, Professor of Organizational Behavior, teaches leadership, group and intergroup dynamics, organizational politics, and change management to students in multiple graduate programs at Penn.  During his years on this campus Kenwyn directed The Center of Workplace Studies, served as Faculty Master of Ware College Houses, (where he was responsible 24/7 for the well-being of 500 Penn undergraduate students), and created Penn’s Graduate Program in Nonprofit Leadership, a partnership among multiple schools and currently housed in the School of Social Policy and Practice, and functioned as its inaugural director until 2012.

  • Dr. Smith, an Australian citizen and holder of an American Green Card, is an international scholar in the fields of group and intergroup dynamics, organizational change and leadership. His research experience ranges from prisons to schools, from businesses to health care institutions, from state enterprises to social entrepreneurial activities, from oppressed black townships in South Africa to agencies creating sustainable livelihoods in rural India, from pharmaceuticals in Belgium to financial services in urban America, from the World Bank to a community in Philadelphia wrestling with the anguish of people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • During his career Kenwyn has help found a number of volunteer-based, nonprofit organizations, has worked on six continents and has been involved in educating students from over 100 countries, both at Penn and in nations as diverse as America and India, Dubai and Australia, Argentina and Brussels.
  • Internationally he is best known for four of his books, Paradoxes of Group Life (co-authored with David N. Berg), MANNA in the Wilderness of AIDS: Ten Lessons in Abundance , Yearning for Home in Troubled Times and Groups in Conflict: Prisons in Disguise.
  • Approaching the end of his years in academia, Professor Smith is currently working on three books to be titled The Heart of Leadership: Lessons from Lincoln, Gandhi and Mandela, The Abundance Chronicles, and Healing Economics.


Description: This study documents the attempts of Eastern Bank (pseudonym), a major financial services organization, to address racism and sexism in the workplace. It examines the initiatives of the Chief Executive Office and the senior management to eradicate sexist and racist practices in their own behavior and in the policies and practices of Eastern. It also examines an initiative where 5,000 employees undertake “diversity management training” and explores the effect of race and gender on a major quality/re-engineering program.

Project Sponsor: School of Policy & Practice; University of Pennsylvania Eastern Bank (a pseudonym)

Dates: 1991-1998

Project Staff: Kenwyn K. Smith, Principal Investigator (

Project Related Publications: A book length manuscript is being prepared and should be ready for publication in late 1998.

Project Number: SMIT-91-01

Entry Date: September, 1998

Description: This is a study of the socio-political-cultural forces effecting homelessness in the USA. The core question is how a nation as wealthy as the USA can have so many homeless, given that it is such a rich and politically stable nation. This study examines what is it in this country’s collective psyche that makes it so hard to mobilize the necessary political will to solve this societal plight? The key question is formulated as follows: if the nation’s body politic continues to perpetuate homelessness, albeit unwittingly, perhaps it is fulfilling some important function. So, how does homelessness serve us?

Project Sponsor: School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

Dates: 1994-1996

Project Staff: Kenwyn K Smith, Principal Investigator (

Project Related Publications: A book length manuscript has been prepared and will be published in the middle of 1997

Project Number: SMIT-94-01

Entry Date: September, 1998

Description: This study is an in depth case study of 80 incarcerated fathers. These inmates vary in terms of reason for being imprisoned, length of sentence, age, race, and number of children fathered. The purpose of this research program is to develop ways for men to remain connected to their children while incarcerated so that they may adopt a more healthy parenting role when released.

Project Sponsor: School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania; Department of Corrections, State of Delaware

Dates: 1994-1998

Project Staff: Kenwyn K Smith, Principal Investigator (

Research Sites: Delaware

Project Related Publications: A book length manuscript will be prepared and should be ready for publication in 1999.

Project Number: SMIT-94-02

Entry Date: September, 1998

Description: This is a theoretical treatment of the typical themes addressed by writers on organizational behavior and looks at them through a paradoxical lens. Twenty paradoxes are examined, such as “to promote change, preserve the status quo” and “to empower self, strengthen others.” In this study the work begun and documented in Smith, K.K. and Berg, D.NParadoxes of Group Life (Jossey-Bass, 1987) is extended to the organizational level of analysis.

Project Sponsor: School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

Dates: 1995-1997

Project Staff: Kenwyn K Smith, Principal Investigator (

Project Related Publications: A book length manuscript is in the process of being prepared and will be ready for publication late 1997.

Project Number: SMIT-95-01

Entry Date: September, 1998

Description: This study documents the first six years of the life of a non-profit begun in Philadelphia in 1990. The organization is the Metropolitan Aids Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance. MANNA serves hot, nutritious meals to people who are homebound with AIDS. This investigation is an in depth examination of the evolution of group, inter-group, organizational and community dynamics of this volunteer based organization.

Project Sponsor: School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

Dates: 1996-1998

Project Staff: Kenwyn K Smith, Principal Investigator (

The data gathering for this project has been undertaken by the class of social work students at Penn studying “Group, organizational and community dynamics, in the fall of 1996.

Research Sites: Philadelphia

Project Related Publications: A book length manuscript is in the process of being prepared and will be ready for publication late 1998.

Project Number: SMIT-96-01

Entry Date: September, 1998


The Abundance-Scarcity Paradox

by Kenwyn K. Smith
Copyright 2018 by Kenwyn K. Smith

Humanity now recognizes we are partway through a transformational epoch that may be even more impactful than the Renaissance. A central feature of this reformation is discovering that all of life is predicated on abundance. Never before has the world been so wealthy. Yet mostly we still feel it is a struggle to survive, largely because our economic system is based on real or artificially created scarcities. The world order has been founded on the economics of scarcity, which is an insufficiently robust architectural edifice given present geopolitical complexities. It needs to be augmented by a financial infrastructure centered on abundance.

Before remaking economics, we need to develop a coherent and collective sense of abundance. Since we know a lot about scarcity, it seems wise to prepare for this transition by discovering how to describe everyday events using the principles of abundance. In the past, people have treated shortages as evidence of scarcity and excesses as indicators of abundance. Such notions are now being reconceptualized. Abundance is a way of seeing, a method of thinking, a form of emoting, and a manner of intuiting. So is scarcity. Abundance results from the integrating of seeming polarities and the balancing effectiveness of yin-yang-like rheostats.

This book shows how everyday events can be experienced as either awash with abundance or burdened by scarcity. Learning how to see the best and the worst of times with an abundance rather than a scarcity lens is the essence of this book.

Freed to Be Fathers: Lessons From Men Doing Time

Book cover of Freed to be Fathers

by Kenwyn K. Smith
Copyright 2003 by Kenwyn K. Smith

American men are at a crossroads: our world is filled with lost fathers and children with no meaningful relationship with their dads. We lament their plight, children and men alike….if we scratch the surface of virtually any man’s emotions it is clear that most makes feel overly yoked to the workplace and yearn for a new form of relatedness with their children.
-Kenwyn K. Smith

Based on interviews with men in Lawton Penitentiary, these moving and stunningly frank stories yield insights into the psychological, emotional, and social make-up of fathers-aspects that are normally kept hidden. “Over and over again,” says the author, “their stories mirror the melt-down of my own inner life as a man.”

Psychologists, social workers, corrections officers, reformers, criminologists, people engaged in prison ministries, and family members of incarcerated fathers will find this book extremely helpful, as will teachers and caretakers of children whose fathers have done time. But be warned, the stories of the twelve men presented here will tug at the heart.

The author offers two interludes for profound reflection: one on the history and transitional nature of our current understandings and practices of fathering, and a second that explores spirituality and its relationship to fathering.

Find Freed to Be Fathers: Lessons From Men Doing Time at

Yearning for Home in Troubled Times

Book cover for Yearning for Home in Troubled Times

by Kenwyn K. Smith
Copyright 2003 by The Pilgrim Press

No matter how fast you run,
Your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes, it’s in front!

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
-Jelaluddin Rumi

Yearning for Home in Troubled Times is a book that addresses the issues that prevent us from feeling “at home” in our world. It examines this “homelessness” and shows us how to develop and build a sense of home.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-Nelson Mandela, 1994 inaugural address

Find Yearning for Home in Troubled Times at

MANNA In the Wilderness: Ten Lessons in Abundance

Book cover for MANNA in the Wilderness

by Kenwyn K. Smith
Copyright 2002 by Kenwyn K. Smith

The poignant story of how a tenacious group of seven individuals from a Philadelphia church transformed a modest initiative to serve food to those with HIV/AIDS into a vibrant, interfaith, nonprofit organization–MANNA (Metropolitan AIDS Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance)–and in the process, revitalized themselves and their church and community.

MANNA embodies Philadelphia’s spirit of brotherly love.
-Ed Rendell, Mayor of Philadelphia, 1992-2000

This book tugs at the heart and lifts the spirit.
-Gloria Guard, Executive Director, People’s Emergency Center

Kenwyn was always our anchor. He’s the perfect person to tell our shared story and to convey the life-sustaining lessons learned by the MANNA community.
-Kay Keenze, Reid Reames, and Bob Prischak, MAANA co-founders

MANNA represents the best of the human spirit. This story of how a church basement ministry became on of the most impressive, vibrant, non-sectarian, volunteer organizations in America… A must read for those needing to know how to run non-profit organizations or wishing to understand theology in action.
-Ram Cnaan, Director, The Program for the Study of Organized Religion and Social Work, University of Pennsylvania

Find MANNA In the Wilderness of AIDS at

Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics

Book cover for Paradoxes of Group Life

by Kenwyn K. Smith & David N. Berg
Copyright 1987 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

During the past decade, leaders have increasingly relied on self-managing work groups, multifunctional teams, and cross-national executive groups to create the organization of the future. Yet groups are not a panacea for organizational problems; conflicts between individuals or factions within a group often create seemingly contradictory situations?paradoxes?that can prevent the group from reaching its goals.

In this groundbreaking classic, Kenwyn Smith and David Berg offer a revolutionary approach to understanding groups and overcoming the problems that often paralyze group members, the group as a whole, and relations among groups. They explore the hidden dynamics that can prevent a group from functioning effectively. And they show how an apparently paradoxical suggestion?for example, inviting a success oriented group to risk failure, or affirming the benefits of going nowhere to a group focused on moving ahead?can break action barriers, overcome conflicts, and improve group performance.

Smith and Berg offer a different way of thinking about groups that will open new avenues of inquiry for professors and students of group behavior, and they propose many innovative ideas that will prove valuable to consultants, trainers, therapists, and others who work with groups on a regular basis.

Find Paradoxes of Group Life at

The Self in Social Inquiry: Researching Methods

Book cover for The Self in Social Inquiry

by Kenwyn K. Smith & David N. Berg
Copyright 1985 by Sage Publications, Inc.

This book is an important step toward clarifying what we mean by clinical research and toward illuminating the complexities of the clinical relationship.
-Edgar H. Schein, Sloan School of Management, MIT

A valuable collection of essays and ideas that will prove of great use to researchers interested in exploring the relationships between researcher and researched.
-Gareth Morgan, York University

The book will be of considerable interest to those concerned with the problems and the potential of applied qualitative research… a (and) to organizational interventionists interested in qualitative methodology.
-Contemporary Psychology

Extraordinarily useful for PhD students in education. It provides a fresh, essential perspective that helps students tighten research designs through a careful examination of the too often neglected investigator variable.
-George I. Brown, University of California, Santa Barbara

This is one of the most stimulating collections of experiences with clinical thinking and methodology that I have seen in a long time. What gives it its innovativeness and instructiveness is that, with one or two exceptions, all of the contributors come from outside of the clinical area. My graduate students in clinical psychology found the book truly provocative.
-Seymour Sarason, Yale University

Find The Self in Social Inquiry at

Groups In Conflict: Prisons in Disguise

Book cover for Groups in Conflict

by Kenwyn K. Smith
Copyright 1982 by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company

Find Groups in Conflict at

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