Marshal Papworth: the power of transformative facilitation.

East of England Agricultural Society Winter Stock Show, Dec 2018. Pic T.L. Magwiroto

Taruvinga Magwiroto

To a farming man or woman from anywhere else in the world, a visit to the East of England evokes an answering chord of unspoken camaraderie. Farmers the world over share with the fine women and men of the East of England these qualities: solidity; common sense; industry; unparalleled hospitality and capacity and desire to learn from others.

Marshal Papworth was one such farmer who was a member of the East of England Agricultural Society. In his life, he had visited Africa and other parts of the developing world and saw the hunger and poverty in Africa. But beyond the hunger, he also saw potential and opportunity for solving those problems. Upon his death, he bequeathed a sizable part of his estate to the establishment of the Marshal Papworth Scholarship, of which I am a proud alumni.

Over the past 11 months or so since I became a Marshal Papworth scholar, I have come to know a number of the hardworking women and men who make the organisation tick. I have observed the gusto and energy with which they throw themselves at their tasks: the ubiquitous, turbo-charged Sandra; the equally indefatigable Steve Harris and his wife; Stewart Papworth; the quiet dignified influential gentlemen behind the scenes; Sarah Cardey at Reading; Ed Mashingaidze at Harper Adams and others- who all work towards the realisation of one man’s dream: Marshal Papworth.

As Marshal’s brother is fond to emphasise, Marshal did not believe in “charity” or hand-outs as we know them. No. He correctly believed that hand-outs induced dependency. Every self-respecting human being aspires to self-sufficiency and autonomy. But, it is a fact that sometimes there are formidable structural constraints that will prevent people from achieving their potentials. That is where Marshal Papworth’s grounded genius came in: transformative facilitation.

Marshal Papworth intuitively saw the problem, and the answer. The answer lied in people. Certain kind of people who would be able to leverage development processes in their societies through transformative facilitation. He himself was a transformative facilitator- but he was only one. His idea was to multiply his effectiveness through other transformative facilitators. Hence the Marshal Papworth Scholarship. It is an endowment which significantly removes constraints for a top education and training in the UK, but still requires enough willpower, agency and determination on the part of the scholar to realise that dream. What every Marshal Papworth scholar achieves is a combination of Marshal’s generosity and foresight and the student’s own agency and drive. There is no better definition of empowerment than that.

Development processes like participation, innovation and learning are the “stuff” of life. But without transformative facilitators like Marshal Papworth to leverage opportunities and ease constraints, the burning ambitions and native energies of developing countries dissipate into tales of woe.

Taruvinga Magwiroto is a Marshal Papworth scholar and transformative facilitator.


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