The birth of the Milestone Institute, as an idea and later as an institution, spans three countries and dozens of conversations between its founders Dániel Léderer, Ádám Zeitler and George Greskovits from 2006-2010.
It is rooted in them experiencing higher education at leading universities in the UK (Dani at the University of St Andrews, Gyuri at Royal Holloway and Ádám at the University of Birmingham) and reflecting upon the state of post-socialist Hungary. Dani and Adam met during a volunteer project in the Middle East where they taught English, while Dani and Gyuri’s friendship was formed in London.
Dani often visited the Greskovits family on his way to university in Scotland, where Gyuri’s mother always welcomed and fed all passing Hungarian students, acting as a safe haven for commuting students in the Hungarian diaspora community who sometimes felt rather stateless. She was the person one could go to for paprikás krumpli and Túró Rudi, and in her kitchen one could have great world-changing discussions.
During these conversations, several sharp social critiques were conceived by the founders. They arrived at the main conclusions that a new, internationally competitive, socially just and competent elite was needed to create a better Hungary that would be competitive in the 21st century. The founders envisioned a project that would nurture a new community of leaders, stand the test of time, work towards horizons measurable in decades, and set an example and benchmark for the next generation in community building, values and success
They saw the solution in creating a progressive educational institution that rethinks the role and mission of education, not to transform existing systems but to see the future through the cultivation of a like-minded community where shared values, a democratic-egalitarian approach, the importance of social responsibility, the development of talent (individual competences) are the primary goals.
When they started to think about the how and the what, they saw that a prerequisite for this was the acquisition of internationally competitive knowledge and experience, the path to which leads through the world’s leading universities.
“We also experienced what it’s like to be out on your own in a university: when you have no community, either outside or at home, to return to after graduation.”
Many of the founders were asked to help students find out what they were good at, what to major in, what to study beyond high school, how and where to apply, and not in the least to prepare them for the challenges that came with it.
So in 2009, Daniel and Adam joined forces and led a group of five first-year students, helping them gain admission to British universities. In cafes and rented office space they started building the foundations of the methodology and of course they taught to prove the concept on which they later based the institutional system and methodology itself.
In 2010, George joined the project, adding academic rigour to the entrepreneurial talents of his peers. All three of them interrupted their careers – Daniel in the public sector and diplomacy, George in academia and Adam in business – to work full-time on laying the foundations of Milestone.
The first office was located in the former washing room of a halls of residence rented by young athletes on the Buda side. The 15 square meter space became the home to a desk hand made by Daniel and Ádám, countless mentoring sessions, and the birth of the Laika logo: a homage to the Institute’s commitment to the future of the region and Hungary as well as the pioneering spirit of its students.
While the project grew from its humble beginnings to an internationally recognised institution thanks to the countless contribution of its staff, students and teaching community – it remains a value driven enterprise, founded upon a commitment to the sensus communis.
“Our aim is to ensure that our students know that they have the power to take action for their future and shape the society in which they live, and we work to help them become successful, innovative and independent individuals.”