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The Big Picture, Civic Engagement and Generativity Four

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For most of the Senior Sage leaders we interviewed it is a matter of life-enhancement rather than sacrifice. The challenge is to get this point across to those who shy away from civic engagement because they are still holding onto the myth of sacrifice. Put another way: how do you convince baby boomers who just left the workforce and are tired of fighting organizational battles that things can be different in the civic arena? They can do new things, learn new skills and, yes, fight new battles—but on behalf of much worthier causes. How do you convince these men and women to work for personal gratification and community improvement rather than a paycheck? They must be convinced that they will get a “return on their investment,” but they often don’t know ahead of time that the return is physical, mental, and spiritual in nature.

Unless burdened with repressive poverty, illness, or major family responsibilities, many seniors can make important contributions to their community if they think it through and become motivated. For those at the bottom of the social-economic rung, the issue of sacrifice is often reflected in whether they actually can become civically involved in their community; the need to scramble to stay alive and provide shelter, food, and clothing for family members and themselves may simply make significant civic engagements impossible. One hopes this isn’t true—everyone has gifts they can share.

Balance Sheet II: Benefits of Civic Engagement

The generative motivations that Sage leaders attribute to their civic engagements are closely linked to the benefits they receive from these engagements. However, benefits possess a different quality than motivations. Emerging and Senior Sage leaders all identify with the rich source of human talent and energy that exists in the community. Like the founders of Grass Valley and Nevada City, they see gold in the foothills—but the gold in this case is human capital rather than a mineral.

Emerging Sage Leaders

Emerging Sage leaders identify seven major benefits that they receive from their civic involvements. During a coaching session, young leaders might wish to not only identify the benefits they now receive or could receive from work in their community, but also identify the specific community activities in which they are likely to find the greatest benefits. Every community has many needs. It is not being “selfish” for someone to pick those that yield the greatest benefit—for a young leader is likely to devote the greatest amount of sustained energy to these activities.

Enduring Legacy: The leading benefit appears to be personal satisfaction and fulfillment:

“The great feeling that comes from giving back, of being involved with our youth and knowing I am impacting their lives, is a tremendous personal benefit. Those students will remain in our community and be our future contributors. Being involved with them also helps to keep me young.”

Advancing community welfare is an important benefit identified by Emerging Sages:

“The feeling of doing something good and well is inspiring for me. It’s the satisfaction that comes from being part of something that makes this community a better place. I get an equal voice at the table and have an understanding of how I can be of service. It makes my job easier as a professional.”

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