Rotary members as provocateurs: building legacies in turbulent times

By Maiden R. Manzanal-Frank, 2015 Rotary Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Portrait of Maiden Manzanal
Maiden Manzanal-Frank

The Rotary Peace Centers Program has truly transformed my life. After receiving a peace fellowship in 2015, my commitment to peace, human security, and development deepened further.

In my current role as a global impact advisor, I help organizations become more robust, sustainable, and effective in their missions. I draw upon two decades of work with social enterprises, rural women, cooperatives, home-based workers, farmers, artisans, health advocates, and local changemakers. Being based in Canada, I have made contact with all the Rotary clubs in Central Alberta, Edmonton, and Calgary (which I can reach within a few hours), regularly offering support and advice. I share my experiences as a Rotary Peace Fellow and promote the program every year.

The 5 Ps

In this, I have found that Rotary members embody the qualities of a provocateur: everyday leaders who possess Passion, Purpose, Provision, Practice, and Paradigms. These 5Ps contribute to effective building of communities, laying down the framework for transformational change in the voice, agency, political will, and cultural awakening of the community partners involved in philanthropic work in the developing world.

This paradigm shift is revolutionary in the sense that instead of working just on ‘‘projects and initiatives that build,” provocateurs must be concerned with partnering with communities. They need to understanding the hearts and minds of people so they can make decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities that lead to sustained positive change.  

We know that many wells in Africa are broken and abandoned. Clinics built by foreign donors and wealthy patrons are left inoperable for lack of maintenance, insufficient supplies, or a lack of qualified doctors, nurses, and community health workers. Mosquito bed nets end up not being used for their original purpose. To change this, we need to focus on working more closely with our communities to understand the needs and challenges. We need to produce solutions together that foster the will and capacity for increasing local ownership and accountability.

A provocateur is not a savior, a patron, a philanthropist, a fixer, or the sole source of resources, connections, or knowledge. A provocateur is a facilitator, a partner, an idea contributor, and a force for good. Instead of doing something for the community partner, they facilitate what’s positive in communities and what’s working, and help bring these features to the surface. They externalize them so that everyone learns and grows from their own wisdom and practices.

As provocateurs, Rotary members can learn from distilled insights on impact, contextual relevance, relationship with change partners and their transformational processes, building a legacy they can be proud of, and looking for innovation in the underappreciated area. Provocateurs practice these traits:

  • Playing the long game
    Many projects and charitable activities are very short-sighted and focus on short-term gains. We need to go beyond the palpable need we see, to know what brings about real change in communities. We need to learn to bring about effective change by asking the right questions
  • Learning from mistakes without guilt and shame
    Often, a project ends with a plethora of introspections and reviews. When results fall short, the ”blame game” can happen. But mistakes can guide our actions and provide the impetus for improvements. We need to learn from our mistakes and those of others.
  • Viewing goodbyes as inevitable but useful
    Conclusions of our work with community partners are a source of inspiration, renewal, and change. Relationships within the community will continue to evolve based on their newly-found capacities, wisdom, and knowledge. We need to begin to act as a bridge to the solutions that work best for them and their organizations.

The real impact of a Rotary Peace Fellowship is measured not only by the transformation in a peace fellow’s life but how they pay it forward in an exponential way. I pay it forward by using my lessons learned and experiences in the field to inspire Rotary members, their partners, and global on-purpose organizations to rise above the challenges of our time and become beacons of hope, impact, and lasting positive legacies.

The time for effective provocation is now.

About the author: Maiden R. Manzanal-Frank is a global impact advisor and adjunct instructor at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, where she leads a course on Leadership and Changemaking. Her new book, Provocateurs Not Philanthropists, explores the role of provocateurs in turning good intentions into global impact.

4 thoughts on “Rotary members as provocateurs: building legacies in turbulent times

  1. Pingback: training peace and development leaders – Service in Action -

  2. Yes, and let us apply the Provocateur’s 5 Ps to actions as advocated in our Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention area of focus such as: pursue projects that address the underlying causes of conflicts including: a) poverty, b) inequality, c) ethnic tensions, d) lack of access to education, and e) unequal distribution of resources,

    Additional thoughts for consideration and conversation …
    * Why and how as Rotarian provocateurs will we address the need for institutional and structural change?
    * What steps will we Rotarians take in “laying down the framework for transformational change in the voice, agency, political will, and cultural awakening of the community partners involved in philanthropic work in the developing world”?
    * I wonder … how Rotary policies may need to change to support and grow provocateurs?

    Thank You for this conversation.


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