Generative Engagement: Conceptualizing A Relational and Cross-Boundary Approach to Human Development and Sustainability in Today’s Divided World

Anita Howard

Citation: Howard, A.,(2021). Generative engagement: Conceptualizing a relational and cross-boundary approach to human development and sustainability in today’s divided world. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 86(1),5-20.


Grounded in the findings from a case study of a nonprofit educational consulting firm that specialized in math literacy reform and operated throughout the American South during the 1990s–early 2000s, this paper presents Generative Engagement (GE), a practice-centered process model on relational behavior that fosters prosocial interaction and collaboration among social identity groups in demographically diverse, highly stratified social environments. The paper describes the dynamic interplay between generativity and inclusivity, presents four different types of relational engagement that result from this interplay and offers five testable propositions. The paper concludes with a discussion on how cross-boundary leaders, work teams, organizations, and communities can better understand, develop, and demonstrate generative relational behavior that enhances work group efficacy and sustains the greater public good. Along with encouraging scholarly exploration of GE, the generative engagement model (GEM) is offered as a tool for inspiring and equipping development and use of generative approaches to leadership, collaboration, and transformative change within organizations.


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