The Budapest Business Journal Wish List 2024 – Trust, Investing in Children, Picking Mushroom and a Diplomatic Cry for Better Communication With Youths

Analysis

Alice Ruggeri

For the seventh consecutive year, Kester Eddy rounds up a gathering of the great and the good, including voices that tend to get less coverage in a business publication like ours, to discover their wishes for 2024.

For Goodness Sake, Let’s be More Positive!

Alice Ruggeri

I’ve been living in Budapest for almost five years, having moved here from Italy after graduating from high school. I speak Hungarian and Italian at native level, and I know the culture, customs, ways of thinking and habits of both countries. One thing I have noticed in Hungary makes me wonder a lot: the pessimism of people.

Whenever I tell someone I moved from Italy, they invariably ask me, “Are you crazy?” “I’m jealous,” or “I would never move; what a dream to live in Italy.”

When I hear these words, it always makes me think: I want people to understand that there are problems everywhere, in every country, and that it is completely different to see a place as a “tourist” than to live there.

I hope that in the new year, there will be more positivity in people because I think that is what defines our days. If we were more focused on what’s going well here and what’s good, we wouldn’t be so busy constantly seeing what’s bad. This negativity brings more pessimism.

Of course, there are problems: we have to be realistic, but to focus on them and talk about them is to lock ourselves in a bubble. I have taken to many Hungarian cultural traditions, such as the Easter Monday locsolás, when boys set off in the morning to “water” their lady friends. I look at this city with admiration, and I feel so grateful to have built my life here.

Ruggeri grew up in Bologna, Italy, with a Hungarian mother and an Italian father. She moved to Budapest aged 19 and now works as the shop manager for Simon Skottowe Bespoke Tailors.

This One Feels Different

Patrick Chilton

With every new invention, from the printing press to television, some will say it’s the destroyer of civilization. But this one feels different. The internet has, over the decades, turned from a disorganized, nerdy hangout place to a race for the constant attention of absolutely everyone.

Television might have been addictive, but most people could not consume it all day, and powerful corporations and nation states weren’t investing billions of dollars to manipulate people on an individual, personalized level.

I’m a software engineer myself and the techno-optimism I once had has turned into an existential dread that we’re building something that’s out of our control, either due to economics and game theory (“if I don’t build the manipulative, addictive product, my competitor will”), or, even scarier, an intelligence that’s beyond our comprehension.

This might sound like science fiction, but the last few years of advancement in machine learning have had results that no one even thought would happen for centuries. And suddenly, all bets are off.

A drought in funding has also led many unprofitable companies to degrade their products and exploit their users, which is also a disappointing result for the online economy. All in all, I wish that, in 2024, we can have a long, hard look at ourselves, what technology has become, and where it’s taking us.

Chilton, who grew up in Pest County, now lives in Budapest and is co-founder of Benaco, a 3D scanning startup.

Devoting More to Child Development Essential For Long-Term Societal Health

Anita Madács

As a special education teacher engaged in early development, numerous aspirations for 2024 have formed within me: all aim at optimal»development and equal opportunities for children.

Early development is of paramount importance, as this period holds a child’s greatest developmental potential. The foundational aspects of the motor, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities of children are fundamentally shaped during the early years. Proper development during this phase facilitates movement and speech development, emotional regulation, the formation of social skills, and the establishment of lifelong learning abilities.

Focusing on early development promotes, in the long term, social equality and the successful development of future generations. The situation in Hungary varies due to regional and economic disparities. Despite the existence of professionally recognized institutions and programs, access is not uniform across the country.

Shortages in resources, a lack of professionals, and insufficient information can be challenges in early development. Hence, continuous support and the expansion of facilities are necessary to make appropriate developmental opportunities accessible to every child.

Therefore, my wishes for 2024 include ensuring universal access to early development. The primary focus should be on expanding free, early intervention programs and services so that every child can benefit from this support and every family can easily access such services.

But equally, parental education is important. We would like to launch new educational programs for parents through our foundation, enabling them to acquire the necessary tools and methods to understand, nurture, and develop their children’s developmental characteristics. The goal is for parents to feel that they are not alone in their challenges and to become competent parents.

My third wish involves incorporating technological developments for innovation in the early development process. Digital technologies allow parents and professionals to monitor and support children’s development more effectively. This could include tools and applications that assist in tracking developmental milestones, as well as online platforms where parents can access information and support.

The combined realization of these wishes would contribute to making 2024 a year of further advancements in early development, creating optimal conditions for a balanced, successful, and happy life for as many children as possible. And it would make me very content.

Madács is the professional leader for children with diverging development at Budapest’s BHRG child development center.

Let’s Start Rebuilding Trust on Local and Global Levels

John Cantwell

I’m sure you’ve noticed the palpable decline in trust levels around the world. Partisan divides have been growing, making communication between people more difficult. Faith in our leaders and institutions is ebbing. Silos, divisive narratives and disinformation feed the flames. Open, honest and respectful dialogue seem relics of the past.

This matters since even basic economic activities, not to mention politics and international relations, can become impossible when trust breaks down. The potential fall-out is not pleasant to imagine.

It takes a lot to develop and nurture trust: Empathy, trying to see things from others’ perspectives; taking accountability for our own actions; better communication; as well as strong institutions to ensure justice and fairness.

Inclusivity is crucial, as it is essential that everyone has a stake in the game. Furthermore, the need for high-quality leadership cannot be underestimated within communities and at the summits of power because there are always some individuals who influence other people’s thinking and behavior.

Perhaps least appreciated by many today is long-term thinking. It is generally over time that benefits become manifest, if we take the right steps now.

With all of the challenges facing the world at this time, the stakes are incredibly high; trust is more important than ever. Is it possible we can look past our differences, commit to building trust and pull together to make things better?

American Cantwell is a long-term Budapest resident and is co-founder and managing director of Dramatrix, a corporate training company based in the capital.

Give More Love, Cook, Cycle, Pick Mushrooms and see World Peace

Kata Fazekas

I don’t plan very much in advance; I like spontaneity. This question is a challenge for me. What do I want in 2024? To continue what I’ve been doing, but more consciously, with more attention, to find its value and to enrich my life.

I love my job because there is always something unique and different happening alongside the daily routine. Pre-school children are cute, kind, impatient and quirky but lovable characters. I want to practice this giving of love, attention and understanding, to bring it to life in myself to give them what they need.

These are the energies needed in the family, too, with some subtlety. I love to cook and the curiosity that comes from preparing new foods. I’d like to keep that. It’s especially wonderful to share it with friends.

I have old friends and acquaintances, but I look forward to new ones with an open heart and interest. I enjoy hiking in nature, exploring towns and villages, and trying to notice the beauty around me. It brings joy and happiness to our days.

And cycling, singing, painting, a good conversation, watching a movie, and mushroom picking. But also cleaning, washing, gardening, digging, hoeing. It all pays off! Thank heavens for that! I want that and World Peace!

Fazekas is a nursery school assistant in Zsámbék, 30 kilometers west of Budapest.

We Must Connect Better to new Generations

Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin

Your offer to contribute to your wish list has sunk me into an unexpected process of introspection. Indeed, what to wish for in 2024 while avoiding the usual New Year’s topics and direct political reference to the current developments in Hungary, Spain or even the world?

I retired almost six years ago. My last message from Budapest to my Foreign Affairs Ministry began: “After 42 years, 3 months and 27 days of diplomatic career, I step down today into retirement” and finished with “I would start all over again.”

Today, I am not sure I would be able to write that last sentence. Looking back, the world and the diplomatic career have changed so much since I so joyfully entered them. Today, I enjoy a pleasant and comfortable life. I read, walk, travel, entertain friends, but I also suffer when I look around to see a world and a reality which are becoming more difficult for me to understand, and to bear.

I am growing increasingly intolerant (which I don’t think I have ever been previously), but the fact is that it is becoming more difficult for me to accept how young generations, totally abducted by their cell phones and social networks, ignore the most basic rules of social behavior and respect.

I see them growing increasingly ignorant of a not-so-distant, bloody past and history and live in some sort of wishful thinking as a means to tackle the acute problems that we face with education, the environment, democracy, migrant movements, increasing inequalities, social honesty, demography […], you name them.

Meanwhile, the present ruling political class is devoid of clearly enlightened, honest leaders; rather, it is stuffed with politicians who can only look into the short term to secure re-election by indulging in populism.

This, in turn, is increasingly leading our people into more chauvinism, xenophobia, nationalism and tribalism.

These are just a few of the thoughts that come to mind when I search for a wish for 2024 that could be at the same time meaningful, optimistic and away from the hackneyed topics of these days.

2024 will be yet another challenging year for all of us. It is not a mere commonplace that our world is changing at an increasingly faster speed, and our societies are encountering ever-increasing difficulties to cope with and adjust to the challenges we encounter and the transformations that are required.

In this changing world, in which communication between new and older generations is increasingly difficult, and technological advances and developments are deepening the inequality gap in our societies, our attitudes are rather often leading too many people to growing intolerance and greater fears against each other.

As I am experiencing myself, at the age of 76, this growing intolerance towards so many modern developments and suffering from ever more difficult communication with the younger generations that will have to face the difficult world we are delivering, my most fervent wish for 2024 and beyond is to become more tolerant, to feel more empathy to the new generations and to work harder not only to understand them but to transmit to them the valuable lessons that we have had to learn in our lives.

Jorrin, born and raised in Madrid, was the Ambassador of Spain to Hungary from 2014-18. His diplomatic career included ambassadorial roles in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 12, 2024.

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