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2017 terms and conditions

  • About us

    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:

    • the willingness to defend points of view other than your own
    • the ability to communicate in a persuasive and memorable way
    • the humility to listen to others and treat them with respect  
    • the capacity to structure and analyse a logical argument
    • the confidence to speak your mind and experiment with new ideas
    • the openness to meet and work with people who think differently

    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.

  • tony koutsoumbos

    Founder and Director of the Great Debaters Club

    TEDx talk on how to reconcile free speech with safe space - 2015

    A topic that Tony is passionate about is the debate over Safe Space. Previously a member of the students union societies' executive at Nottingham University and later a HR Manager for a London-based recruitment consultancy, Tony shares his experiences of teaching young Rwandans how to debate and the lessons we can learn from them about bridging the divide between supporters of free speech and Safe Space in this country.

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