[This post has been written by Gonzalo Vicente, manager of the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) from 2002 to 2004 and general manager of ISGlobal since 2011, and Delino Nhalungo, administrative director of the Manhiça Foundation from 2008 to 2021. This blog post is a one of a series of articles to commemorate the 25th anniversary of CISM].
If there is one thing that unites the many people who have helped to make the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) a reality, it is the word confusão. For those unfamiliar with the term, confusão can refer to absolutely anything. You misplaced a pen: “What a confusão.” There’s a monumental traffic jam getting into Maputo: “What a confusão.” The electricity has just gone out and you have more than two dozen -80ºC freezers offline: “What a confusão.” It has been raining for a week and there is flooding throughout the district: “What a confusão.”
Over the past 25 years, CISM has figured out how to cope with constant challenges and all kinds of confusões. Working side by side, we staff members—Mozambican and Spanish alike—have striven to overcome the difficulties of each moment. From keeping research laboratories up and running in a semi-rural part of Africa to recruiting technical and support personnel to work at the centre, CISM was built upon constant efforts to deal with setbacks and obstacles.
Over the past 25 years, CISM has figured out how to cope with constant challenges and all kinds of confusões
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of CISM, earlier posts on this blog remind us, from multiple angles, about the successes of the project as well as its challenges. In this post, we would now like to turn your attention to all the people who have devoted their time to the administration and management of the centre, without whom these achievements would not have been possible.
This post is dedicated to the main ingredient in any project or institution: the human component. For 25 years, dozens of people of different ages, professions and nationalities, representing vastly different cultures, have been involved in making this possible.
This post is dedicated to the main ingredient in any project or institution: the human component
What began as a development cooperation project between two countries 25 years ago has evolved into a Mozambican institution with its own legal personality and led by Mozambican staff. This transformation has been an adventure and a shared challenge. CISM is an example of how people from different cultures and religions can work together. In fact, advancing in a harmonious climate after starting from a profoundly multicultural reality is among the greatest challenges that CISM has had to tackle, as well as one of its contributions to building a better world. We could tell hundreds of stories about the coexistence of Spanish and Mozambican people, but we’ll leave that for another day.
While it may seem self-evident, two centres the size of CISM and ISGlobal—with more than 1,000 employees and an annual budget (between them) of nearly €50 million per year—clearly pose an enormous management challenge. Over the years, hundreds of collaborative projects have thrived in this cooperative environment, involving research staff from different countries and cultures. We are appreciative and grateful to all of them.
What began as a development cooperation project between two countries 25 years ago has evolved into a Mozambican institution with its own legal personality and led by Mozambican staff
We want to underscore the importance of the cultural and experiential learning component of this joint project, which is particularly evident among the expat staff. Over the years, dozens of people have moved to Manhiça—alone or with their families, for short or long periods—and have inevitably been transformed by their time in Mozambique.
The person who returns from Africa is always different from the person who went there. Africa changes you forever: in values, in priorities, and in how you see and understand the world. This capacity to transform people—which continues to this day, with an average of 30 people travelling from Barcelona to Manhiça each year—is a great asset for both institutions, and a new measure of the success of a cooperation project 25 years in the making.
The person who returns from Africa is always different from the person who went there
To be sure, a sojourn in Africa changes more than just people; it also indirectly transforms the institutions they return to. After all, what are institutions if not the people who make them up? In the management meeting room at ISGlobal, as well as in many of our centre’s presentations, you will see an African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. The cooperative spirit underpinning the collaboration between Barcelona and Manhiça has permeated the idiosyncrasy of the organisation, which today encompasses much more than the activities underway in Mozambique. People pass through and are, by definition, finite, but institutions endure, finding new leadership and adapting to new realities.
All of the institutions behind the existence of CISM share a commitment to ensuring that the centre is able to carry on and celebrate many more anniversaries. We are especially grateful to the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), whose ongoing support is essential to making this reality possible.
All of us should feel proud of what we have achieved over the past 25 years. We cannot mention all the people, Spanish and Mozambican, who have made this possible, because we would never finish. Khanimambo!