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Country, Date of election

Hungary 2014


Civic participation

The ultimate question I come across again and again is the question of who should adapt to whom. For me the answer is obvious: both. While the majority needs to learn tolerance, empathy and how to give everyone a chance, the minority has to adapt to the basic rules of coexistence, as long as they can keep their own identity. 


The correlation between a child’s economic status and school performance is the strongest in Hungary from all OECD countries, illustrating the inability of the education system to compensate for children’s family background. Public education is tailored to the middle class, it too often fails to nurture relevant skills and competencies of underprivileged children, and as a result high percentages of youngsters drop out early from school. State institutions, from schools to social welfare agencies are poorly resourced and unable to respond effectively to the chronic poverty in their midst.


School performance of children attending afterschool programs progressed significantly, while a channel to work with their families was forged. Nóra and her team developed a pilot model in one settlement and they are implementing it in 16 others. Results: families’ sense of efficacy increased by 50%, average family income levels rose by 25% and school dropout rates decreased by 40%. The morale of communities tangibly improved, aggression levels dropped, child prostitution and teenage pregnancy have been almost completely eliminated. The cooperation between state institutions and helping organizations significantly strengthened. Nóra’s methodology scaled to other European and non-European countries from Slovakia to Canada.


Confronting poorly resourced state institutions that are unable to respond effectively to the chronic poverty in their midst, Nóra and her Real Pearl Foundation aim to create concrete integration models outside of government structures. These engage and inspire families and communities to become active agents of change in their lives, and build awareness and support for transforming the state and nongovernmental programs, institutes that were designed to serve these populations. Nóra began working with young people, setting up afterschool Academies that capture their imagination and interest through collaborative learning programs creatively mixing arts with other school subjects.


Nóra’s goal is to break the cycle of chronic entrenched poverty that has devastated marginalized rural populations throughout Hungary and much of Central Europe. She strives for triggering an attitude change in society and in how institutions work with poor people so that they become more empathic and less blaming. She would also like to develop a system for scaling the model to other parts of the country and abroad. Nóra works on creating the long term economic sustainability of her venture as well as building her model into the institutional settings. She truly would like to establish a collaborative social integration system where each stakeholder plays a well-defined role in efficiently tackling chronic poverty.


After giving birth to her two children, Nóra began to teach at a rural primary school. At this early stage of her career, she recognized that the long-term transformation of rural communities would depend on transforming young lives. Initially her work focused on restructuring public education in the public school in which she taught. Eventually, an administration change resulted in the gutting of her reform efforts and Nóra resigned. She realized she had two choices, either to return to existing state institutions or to launch her own institution, letting it serve as a laboratory for how to teach and engage young people, and in turn their families and communities. Nóra chose the latter.

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