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Paying Forward: Enabling Market Research Leadership for the Future

The Manolo Award hopes to encourage emerging leaders from across the Americas to experience new ideas, new thinking and new environments they can then take back to their own country and company; and to build on the leadership skills that they are beginning to demonstrate.

By Simon Chadwick

Once in a while, you meet a person who has such a profound effect on you that you are inspired perhaps to emulate them or to pay forward what it is that they have given you in life.  Here at Cambiar, one such person was Manuel Barbarena. “Manolo”, as he was known, was a big bear of a man, with a huge laugh and a personality to go with it. He was also one of the most influential people in Latin American market research – ever. Not content with founding two research agencies (Pearson and Kitelab), he was instrumental in the founding of AMAI, the Mexican MR trade association, and insisting on the highest of standards and codes. He was passionate about bringing Latin America onto the main stage of MR and was both a board member of CASRO and a Council Member at ESOMAR.

But his real passion was in building young MR leadership across the entire American region. He fervently believed in the power of the young to lift the industry up and to show it its destiny, much as he had done.

Sadly, Manolo did not live long enough to see all his dreams come to fruition. In May, 2011 he was killed by a massive heart attack. He was only 48. But such was the power of the man, his ideas and his passion that hundreds of us in the industry decided that his dreams were not going to end because his life had so tragically ended. Cambiar, CASRO, ARIA and a number of wonderful industry figures decided to build a foundation – the Manolo Foundation. We raised over $100,000 in short order and instituted the Manolo Award.

Very simply, the Manolo Award picks two young leaders from the MR industry in the Americas each year and gives them the opportunity to go and work for a short time in another country within the continent and to attend a major conference in that country, all expenses paid. Candidates have to be nominated by their management team, opt for a country to which they want to go, and then write an essay about why the award would be important to them and what they would do with it. These are then judged by a jury and the two lucky winners are on their way to a hosting company in the country of their choice!

The results have been amazing. Since 2012, young people from all over the Americas have had their lives changed, have learned about research in other countries and have made new and lasting friendships. As Rosario Zavala, one of the award’s winners, puts it, “The Manolo Award meets the purpose of promoting us to be thought leaders and what better way to do it than living an international experience.”

Or, in other words, what better way of paying Manolo’s dreams forward?

There are three ways you can help us ensure that this endeavor survives long into the future:

  • Nominate a young leader of your own to compete for the award;
  • Put yourselves forward as a host company at which a young winner could work for two weeks of more; and be their mentor while they are with you;
  • Sponsor the award by donating to the Foundation. Many of our clients are already sponsors and we thank them profusely – won’t you join them?

You can find out more about how to do all of this by going to And, by the way, the deadline for this year’s nominations is April 3rd.

Thank you!

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