“I want to change the world”: how (and why) do young people make lasting contributions to society? – Dr. Heather Lawford’s Canada Research Chair on Youth Development

“I want to change the world”: how (and why) do young people make lasting contributions to society? – Dr. Heather Lawford’s Canada Research Chair on Youth Development

What steers one young person to a life of beneficiary service to a community and another to engage in terrorism, presumably to defend a set of beliefs? Both paths represent very different legacies that young people are leaving for the future, an idea that researchers refer to as generativity.

“We know very little about the developmental course of generativity before midlife,” explains Dr. Heather Lawford, Bishop’s University’s new Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Youth Development. “There is a need to engage and motivate youth to behave as responsible and contributing citizens, and this research is particularly relevant to that end. Youth who have already connected to their generative motivations often enjoy a significant advantage as they prepare for adulthood.”

Dr. Lawford’s research examines the developmental roots of generativity in the first youth-centred study of its kind. Her work includes an in-depth study of young people who are exemplary in their actions to leave a lasting benefit to society. She is also developing the first measure of generativity in youth. Her research will contribute to an overall knowledge base of how youth express and deepen their commitment to generativity, enhance our capacity to understand generativity across the lifespan, and inform our efforts to facilitate generative development.

Dr. Lawford’s Youth Development CRC grant is comprised of the standard $ 500,000 over five years, with an additional $ 20,000 per year, and complements her existing research funding of $ 88,443 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Insight Grant, for a total of $ 688,443 in funding.

“The future of research and science in Canada will be led by the next generation of talent. That’s why it is so important that we support our early-career researchers today,” says the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport and Member of Parliament for Etobicoke North. “There’s no better place than Canada to be a scientist. That’s why Canada Research Chairs from diverse backgrounds choose to come to Canada to pursue their ambitious research goals, build their teams and maintain Canada’s position as a global leader in research excellence.”

“By investing in youth, we are investing in the future. That’s why our government has elaborated Canada’s first Youth Strategy, explains the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and Member of Parliament for Compton – Stanstead. “Today, we are supporting the scientific community’s research in a new direction: generativity in youth.”

“Through this CRC, Dr. Lawford’s groundbreaking research on what motivates young people to make an impact on society is rightly recognized for its academic and societal significance, as well as its undeniable academic value,” indicates Bishop’s University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Michael Goldbloom. “As with Bishop’s other CRCs – Dr. Matthew Peros’ CRC on Climate and Environmental Change, and Dr. Jason Rowe’s CRC on Exoplanet Astrophysics – it embodies the type of University we are: these outstanding researchers choose Bishop’s because they also love to teach, and our students benefit greatly as a result.”

Dr. Lawford’s new CRC on Youth Development is another illustration of Bishop’s University’s commitment to academic excellence, which is grounded in the university’s deeply-held values such as the search for truth and the discovery, transmission and mobilization of knowledge through research and scholarship, as well as striving to encourage outstanding teaching and research.


Olivier Bouffard
Director of communications
819-822-9600 ext. 2840