Generative Engagement: Understand and Act to Change the World

Over the last several weeks, Mary Nations and Royce Holladay have shared several blog articles about Generative Engagement.This week, they conclude their series with a look at where they've been and where you can take it next. 

Over the last several weeks, Mary and I have shared several blog articles about Generative Engagement.

On the one hand, we talk about Generative Engagement as a model that reflects how the dynamics between and among people. It represents shared identity, power, and voice as they generate patterns of 1) reciprocal respect and contribution; 2) authentic participation; and 3) justice and fairness. It is a model—or a representation of possible reality—that describes and explains a perspective about how specific conditions in the environment can come together to shape engagements that are open and generative. In those parts of this online exchange, we have talked about a number of ideas:

On the other hand, we have also talked about Generative Engagement as a method that details how individuals and groups can set conditions to shape patterns we believe will contribute to more generative interactions in human systems. We talked about what it is to share identity with another, what it means to share power and influence in a human system, and what it means to grant and generate voice. We talked, in more behavioral terms, about a number of ideas:

Finally, we talked about the role Generative Engagement can play at all scales of a system, pointing to a reality that is counterintuitive in today’s landscape. Patterns of Generative Engagement cannot be mandated “from the top” in a command to change the culture. Patterns of generative engagement will not happen just because people are told to be nice to each other. Real change in cultural patterns requires that we:   1) Interact in person-to-person engagements; 2) Transform how the “system” treats its members; and 3) Encourage each person to engage with the system, as a whole.

  • Person-to-Person Engagement – Consider what it means to choose each action you take, based your desire to move toward more generative engagements. What difference would that make in your day? How would you respond to the stranger who smiles at you? The person who steps in front of you to take your place in line?  What might it mean if, in those instances, you knew the other person was also going to choose to move toward more generative engagements?
  • System-to-Person Engagement – It is true that any government, organization, or family is, at heart, a conglomeration of the people who live, work, and play together. It is also true that those institutions engage with each of us individually. Governments tax us. Courts judge us. Bosses evaluate us. Parents set rules for us. What would happen if policies, laws, and regulations of these institutions were written with the idea of generative engagement at their core.
  • Person-to-System Engagement – If institutions consist of the people who make them up, consider what it would look like if individuals used Generative Engagements as they interact with those institutions. Individuals and groups would identify strongly with the institutions that serve them. They would work to influence the systems around them. Individuals would engage generatively, granting voice to the larger systems that serve them and generating voice to shape the work and future of the greater whole. Generative Engagement works as a model to help you see opportunities for a better life. As a method, it guides your actions to create the life you imagine. It is one HSD model/method among many.

Would you like to know more about HSD-based models and methods that help you see and understand the patterns in your world? Would you like to interpret your reality in ways that can inform your best wise actions? Explore becoming a certified Human Systems Dynamics Professional.

Our certification process will provide you with deep understanding of how you can see the world through the lens of HSD to explore, understand, and take action to shift your most intractable issues. Engage online for 5 half-day sessions that launch 3 months of application and learning. For more information, contact us at or learn more by visiting HSDP Certification Virtual Course. Plan to join us in this online course to learn a new way to see your world.


Join a global network of learning about HSD!

As a member of the network, you will receive weekly notices of events, opportunities, and links to blogs and other learning opportunities. Additionally, you will have the option to unsubscribe at any point, should you decide to do so.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.