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The Big Picture, Civic Engagement and Generativity Four

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Gary Quehl and William Bergquist

 We are now ready to explore the fourth set of generative roles—those that relate to civic engagement. It was our study of Sage leadership in Western Nevada County, California, that led to an unanticipated and important finding about generativity and also served as the primary motivator for us to prepare this series of essays on deep caring (Quehl and Bergquist, 2012).

We found repeatedly that both Emerging and Senior Sage Leaders in Western Nevada County were energized by a form of generativity that didn’t fit Erik Erikson’s (1963) model of generativity; nor with the more recent model offered by George Vaillant (2012). Once we began to broaden our understanding of generativity, we came to realize that generativity might also extend “backwards” to the extraordinary energizing experience of raising a child or creating and sustaining a project. As a result of these reconsiderations, we arrived at a fourth role model that is presented in this essay. This form of generativity yields valuable insights for those who are engaged in coaching “for the greater good” (Freedman and Bergquist, 2021).

An Expanded Generativity: Space

In setting the stage for the fourth and final set of generativity roles, we begin by briefly reviewing the first three sets of roles: Level One Generativity primarily involves the raising of children and is usually associated with motives to provide for their care during our early adulthood; a variant on this parenting role is the creation and maintenance of a treasured project. Level Two Generativity, which is the principal focus of work done by Erikson, is concerned with the deep caring motivations that are manifest during mid-life—teaching others, mentoring, witnessing the growth of a colleague. Level Three Generativity seems to be about guardianship (as George Vaillant notes) and the preservation of existing or historical values, land, and legacy. This third set of generativity roles concern the extension in time; that is, bringing the past into the present and ensuring that this past is sustained into the future. We are generative guardians of the past as it is sustained in the present and future.

Generativity Four is about another form of extension. It is about extension in space rather than in time. While Generativity One is about deep caring for someone or something that is close to us (in space and in our heart), and Generativity Two is about extending this space and heart to other people in our organizations (through mentoring, motivating, etc.) and into the future (through ensuring that there is a legacy), Generativity Four is about extending the space into a broader community and ensuring that a legacy is expanded, embedded, and preserved in this community. Stated simply, Generativity Four is about doing something much larger than Generativity One, Two, and Three. And it’s about doing something more than preserving the past and preparing for our own deaths as older adults. Rather it has to do with building something new for the future by advancing civic welfare in own community.

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