Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XXII:  Generativity Four—The Varieties of Civic Engagement

Essay XXII:  Generativity Four—The Varieties of Civic Engagement

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Some of this “heart” results from the unique relationship that exists between the county volunteer organizations and the government agencies that serve these communities—particularly the Nevada County Health and Human Service Agency. The former director had a unique philosophy about the role his agency should play in the community: he believed that nonprofit organizations should provide as many community services as they possibly can, and that county government’s job is to make this happen as often as is practicable. This has not always been the way of Nevada County government; as is the case with so many county, state, and federal agencies, there was a long-held and pervasive view that government agencies should assume sole or at least primary responsibility for human services.


Of course, there is more to the story than just collaborative relationships between the community’s government and nonprofit sectors. In many ways, as we noted previously, the culture of Grass Valley and Nevada City contributes to what Alexis de Tocqueville (and later Robert Bellah and his colleagues) called “habits of the heart.” This is particularly the case among its Senior Sage leaders. As Hillary Clinton (2006) wrote about children needing to be raised by a village, perhaps seniors are most able to find a calling when they live in communities that have both heart and place value on the lives of everyone there.

Many Senior Sage leaders came to Western Nevada County from other communities in California or other regions of the United States. To a person they note how remarkable it is that Grass Valley and Nevada City are able to respond rapidly to individuals and families who are in crisis—and how flexible and often entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations can be in making this happen.

For instance, when senior volunteers at Habit for Humanity temporarily run out of home building projects, they often contact nonprofit organizations to see if they can help. The commitment, responsiveness, and organizational ability among these senior leaders are particularly poignant, given that many of them don’t have the deep roots of continuity often found there.



Clinton, Hillary (2006) It Takes a Village.  New York: Simon and Schuster.

Bellah, Robert and others (1985) Habits of the Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kotre, John (1984) Outliving the Self. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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