2017 terms and conditions
A social enterprise that brings people together because they disagree not in spite of it
Why we think disagreement is a good thing?
Disagreement, when done correctly, doesn't need to be disagreeable. It can be educational, it should be enjoyable, and it will help you make big decisions. Yet it is often seen as a sign of failure at worst or a necessary evil at best.
How can disagreement be 'done correctly'?
By putting in place a system of rules and standards to guide it, which is how structured debates work. Good examples are courts of law, national parliaments, and university debating societies. Collectively, they offer the key components of a fun and informative disagreement:
Yet there are no places where people who aren't lawyers, politicians, or students can go to learn how to get the best out of disagreement, which matters because we debate all the time - on TV talk shows, radio phone-ins, social media, newspapers, boardrooms, public meetings, and of course in the pub and at home.
What are we doing about it?
We train people to deal with disagreement like a Great Debater, so they can apply it in their own lives, and then we get them to speak in public debates on topical issues that anyone can attend free of charge. This gives them a chance to test their new skills in a live environment without having to worry about the consequences, while helping members of the community to make up their minds on issues that typically divide public opinion.
Since the club was founded in 2009, it has gone from being a hobby horse to being a business and now a community for people who are discovering the joy and creative power of disagreement for themselves. Members hail from different professional backgrounds such as: banking, medicine, journalism, law, politics, education, and technology. Most are between the ages of 25 to 45 and tend to occupy management-level positions.
We also serve as a hub for talented debaters who want to work with communities, for whom professional training may not be an option, either as volunteers or through other providers. In 2013 and 2014, we visited Rwanda twice to train 150 young people to run their own debate camp, which they now deliver every year by themselves. Currently, the club's founder, Tony Koutsoumbos, works through Lambeth Council to run a weekly class called 'Leading Difficult Conversations' for unemployed local residents who want to improve their communication skills.
debating london - bi-monthly public debates in vauxhall
No hidden agendas. No special interests. These are public debates for people who want to hear trained debaters examine the arguments for and against and leave their own opinions at the door. Hear what they have to say, ask your questions and share your thoughts, then cast your vote.
How we decide what to debate
Turning a topic into a 'motion'
We typically debate issues that divide public opinion, which last year ranged from Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump to closing down zoos and boycotting the Oscars. Topics are expressed not as a question, but as a proposal that the audience must vote to accept or reject after hearing all the arguments. We call these motions.
Selecting our speaker teams
Putting our members in the hot seat
Only members of the club's training programme are invited to speak at Debating London, so they can practice in front of a live audience. Six speakers are divided into two teams: one in favour of the motion and the other against. However, we pick the teams and they must defend the position they are given even if they personally disagree.
How we get the audience involved
Asking questions and making decisions
The audience play a crucial role in Debating London. After hearing from the speaker teams, they cross-examine both sides by either asking a question or explaining where they stand. They must then decide who they agree with most, voting both before the debate and after, so we can see how many people have changed their minds.
Why we ask you for feedback
Advancing the development of our members
Debating London is a vital training ground for members to develop their communication and analytical skills. As a result, we like to know who you found most persuasive and why. So, we run small focus groups with five or six people at the end of each debate and write up the feedback in debate summaries for our members.
How to watch Debating London
Free of charge and open to all
We don't charge for admission and we don't keep a guest-list, so it's very much a case of first come first served. All you need to do is register on-line (so we don't exceed the capacity of our venue). If you're on the mailing list, you'll be sent a link automatically, but you can also sign up here on the website, on facebook and on meetup.