Our Vision

Empowering young people worldwide today to be the active citizens of tomorrow.

Our Mission

To give young people a voice through education, debate and by raising their awareness about worldwide issues. 

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of communism across Central and Eastern Europe, a new era dawned that promised economic growth, improved quality of life and individual freedom. Antiquated methods of teaching, rooted in the notion that only one truth exists (that of the State), coupled with a lack of dialogue and slow social and economic progress, bred discontent among a generation of young people that had anticipated so much more.

In 1994, in an effort to stem this tide of apathy and push for a more rapid transition to democracy, The Open Society Institute (OSI) - now The Open Society Foundations (OSF) - launched its first network debate programme. Although debate was an entirely new phenomenon to these countries, it provided an invaluable means for students to express opinions, to meet and discuss important issues, and in short, to become informed citizens.

In 1999, International Debate Education Association (IDEA) was created by OSI to coordinate these debate programmes and act as an independent membership organization of national debate clubs, associations, programmes and individuals with one common goal: to promote mutual understanding and democracy globally by supporting discussion and active citizenship locally. In 2001, IDEA US was registered to further expand IDEA's scope of activities.

For over a decade, IDEA has continued to bring debate, active citizenship training, curriculum development and international student exchanges and forums to young people across the world, with a particular focus on countries with developing democracies. In 2011, OSI invested in improving the provision of those skills and experiences to the virtual world of the Internet, setting up the UK office IDEA UK which was registered in London to expand IDEA’s work into the virtual world, its main focus being the redesign and rebuilding of our website idebate.org, taking full advantage of IDEA’s international debate expertise: an enhanced Debatabase featuring a content-rich online community of debaters from around the world and an extensive library of open-source materials being some of the examples of how IDEA UK added to the virtual debating world where we are amongst the leaders. 

Today IDEA, through its various incarnations across the world, organizes debating activity in over XX languages in more than XX countries; and continues to grow, striving constantly to improve the quality and quantity of its services – working locally, acting globally.

'Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate’
Hubert H Humphrey


Debate Formats

There are different styles of debate. Each offer their own distinct format and focus. The most widely used format at the university level is Parliamentary Debate although certain regions of the world have their own, slightly different version of it.

Parliamentary debate

Many formats of debate are described as 'parliamentary' - a format that is loosely modeled on the practices of the British parliamentary system and other parliaments around the world that have adopted their practices.

What does it mean in practice?

In practice it means that the motion for debate is treated in much the same way as a legislative Bill placed before the UK House of Commons. The motion always stands in the name of the Government (also called 'the proposition') and it is the job of the opposition to demonstrate that the motion is either impractical or immoral.

What distinguishes Parliamentary debate?

The term Points of Information (POI) is what makes the parliamentary format quite distinctive. POI allows debaters to interrupt a speaker to ask a question or offer information which favours their side of the debate. Both proposition and opposition speakers can offer POIs, but only to the other side. It is not compulsory to accept to answer POIs but in a competitive debate, speakers are penalised if they fail to take any. Usually the first and last sections of a speech are 'protected time' during which POIs may not be offered.

Is there a specific terminology?

In many parliamentary formats the terminology of the House of Commons has also been adopted with the first proposition speaker being referred to as the Prime Minister and the first opposition speaker being known as the Leader of the Opposition. The chair or presiding adjudicator is usually referred to as Mister or Madam Speaker and all remarks are addressed to them not the other debaters.

British Parliamentary (BP)

This is the name of the format used for the World Universities Debating Championship and has, as a result, become the default format for many university societies, especially in the English-speaking world. It is probably the most commonly used format in the World. In much the same way as many university societies debate in their native language as well as English, so they tend to use a regional or local format and also BP.

How does it work?

Debates comprise eight speakers: four speaking in favour of a motion and four against. Each side is made up of two teams of two individuals. They debate a motion (the idea to be discussed) which is usually framed with the wording This House believes... or This House would.... For example if the motion is This House would support assisted suicide, it is the role of the Proposition (or 'Government') speakers to explain why assisted suicide is a good idea and the opposition should demonstrate that it is not.

As a form of parliamentary debate, in BP the government should propose a course of action and support it with philosophical, practical and consequential arguments. The burden of proof is on the government, but the opposition must also demonstrate the strength of their arguments.

How long does each speaker speak for?

Typically in BP, a motion is announced 15 minutes before the debate starts. Speeches are seven minutes in length, with the first and last minute protected (Points of Information cannot be offered in 'protected' time). The first proposition speaker is required to present a definition of the motion that places an idea in a real-world setting. Once a motion has been defined, all speakers are required to address the definition, not some other variant that might be easier for them.

Team debate with Karl Popper

The Karl Popper format focuses on relevant and often deeply divisive propositions, emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills and tolerance for differing viewpoints. Debaters work together in teams of three and must research both sides of each issue. Each team is given the opportunity to offer arguments and direct questions to the opposing team. Judges then offer constructive feedback, commenting on logical flaws, insufficient evidence or arguments that debaters may have overlooked.

Where is Karl Popper popular?

This format was developed for use in secondary school programmes and competitions.  It is popular in Central and Eastern Europe, in Russia and Africa, where it is becoming increasingly popular in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Nigeria.

Is it a good format for beginners?

Karl Popper emphasizes team work and is a good format for beginner debaters, because each speaker in this debate speaks once only and members of the team need to communicate with each other during the designated preparation time. The distinguishing features of the format are: cross-examination, when four of the six debaters ask their opponents questions; and preparation time, when debaters can prepare before their speeches.

Who is Karl Popper?

Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FBA FRS was an Austrian-British philosopher and professor. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century.

Is there a difference between the Karl Popper debate format and the Parliamentary format?

The Karl Popper debate format is most frequently used with secondary school students; the Parliamentary format with secondary and university students.

Online Debating

Online debating formats are meant to allow debaters to engage in short debates using instant messaging or video conferencing software. These debates will have one debater representing the "affirmative" and another debater presenting the "negative". While online debates are not meant to replace face-to-face communication, they are a way to bridge geographic distances and to allow for discussion between people who might not otherwise have a chance to meet.


Debating in the virtual world allows schools to have an inter-cultural exchange with other schools in an online dynamic environment and builds bridges across borders.

What is T-Bate?

T-Bate is a built-in online service within the idebate online ecosystem, directly accessible via the singular idebate login. Combining the best and most heavily used aspects of Debatabase, Debatepedia, and the overall idebate website, T-Bate allows you to create a debate and have debate-styled discussions between debaters, teams, schools and even nations, such as via the World Online Debating Championship.

Why T-Bate?

Social media has penetrated almost every facet of human interaction, and the trend continues to grow, forcing discussions to move to places not easily imagined even a decade ago.  With new technologies increasingly pervading our everyday lives, people are more and more challenged by the traditional methods of debating.

Is T-Bate easy-to-use?

It is a valuable education tool for learning, teaching and improving skills. You can easily share an argument with and for others to build and improve upon.

What does it mean to debate online?

Online debating can be primarily considered as translating the routines of debating to new online platforms. 

What if translation is only part of the challenge? What if we consider the opportunity new technology provides to revisit the basic elements of debate?

We are aware that people expect a debate to involve debaters meeting at a single, common place, speaking, being judged and then leaving. Is this the only option? We don’t think so.

Imagine being able to debate, pause and debate again?

With asynchronous (not in real-time) debating, it is now possible to offer a valuable set of new formats that have a lot of debate potential. When reviewing debate styles, we can see how different formats reflect different educational and competitive rationales. When you debate online you are encouraged to:

  1. Give more or less advanced notice about the topic to calibrate the optimal role of preparation;
  2. Modify the length of your speech to challenge speakers with even more abbreviated commentary.

How did IDEA come up with the design?

When designing T-Bate, we studied award winning Debatabase, and created a platform that allows you to explore asynchronous debating, opening the discussion front to debaters from different time zones as well as sharing other aspects of expressing one’s opinion, be it text, voice or video.

Heavily incorporated with social media, the T-Bate platform allows every aspect of one debate or discussion to be shared, commented, discussed and improved upon.

How can I debate?

You can debate within preset traditional formats, featuring debaters, commenters and judges, or you can go ahead and devise your own format, based on the capabilities of individual debates.

Legislative Debate

Legislative Debate is based upon the notion of having representative student leaders consider some of the problems that actually confront lawmakers. In doing so, Legislative Debate provides unparalleled insight into the way legislation is drafted and establishes leadership and deliberation skills crucial to effective participation in democratic processes. Legislative Debate also offers a vehicle for teaching parliamentary procedure and helps students internalize the value of decision-making processes that draw on consensus building and majority rule.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

In Lincoln-Douglas Debate, the motion is a statement, phrased as a sentence that focuses on an issue of philosophical or political concern and which will be analyzed from a moral perspective.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate places primacy on the ability of debaters to make original, coherent and philosophically persuasive arguments on issues of ethics. Debaters should present a persuasive moral position that they can defend from criticism and use to argue against an opposing case, without falling into self-contradiction or denying the complexity of the issues at stake. Students should familiarize themselves with the work of major ethical philosophers and should inform their cases with real-world examples and analysis.

Middle School Debate

Fostering debate and speech activities at the middle school level is consistent with IDEA's commitment to empower young people as participants of the democratic processes.

How can students benefit?

Middle school students can benefit uniquely from exposure to speech and debate. They are at an age, psychologically and socially, where they can make considerable strides in acquiring research competence, media and argument literacy, reading comprehension, evidence evaluation, and public speaking and civic skills. Finally, through cultivating middle school speech and debate activities, not only are young people and teachers empowered, but an appreciation of speech and debate is instilled in students who may well pursue it to higher levels.

Mock Trial

Mock Trial is an exercise in argumentation and legal procedure and the only educational trial format based on the International Criminal Court established by the Treaty of Rome. The IDEA Mock Trial hones both legal reasoning and courtroom technique, while it familiarizes participants with a vital arena of public debate.

How does it work?

Teams representing the prosecution and defense take on the roles of all attorneys and witnesses.

  • A judge, or judging panel, oversees the round, provides educational criticism and makes a decision based on each team's performance.
  • Each case argued is an original scenario that the participants must master.
  • Facts are presented through a variety of legal documents and through the testimony of witnesses. Although the underlying facts are the same, each round unfolds differently according to the actions, decisions and interactions of the participants.
  • Teams contest the facts of the case through direct examination, cross-examination, re-direct and re-cross of both prosecution and defense witnesses.

Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate

Like other forms of debate, Cross-Examination Debate focuses on the core elements of a controversial issue. Cross-Examination Debate develops important skills, such as critical thinking, listening, argument construction, research, note-taking and advocacy skills.

How is it distinctive?

Cross-Examination Debate is distinct from other formats (with the exception of two-team Parliamentary Debate) in its use of a two person team, along with an emphasis on cross-examination between constructive speeches. While specific practices vary, Cross Examination Debate typically rewards intensive use of evidence and is more focused on content than rhetoric and delivery.

Public Forum Debate

Public Forum Debate offers students a unique opportunity to develop on-your-feet critical thinking skills by situating them in contexts not unlike US political talk shows.

How does it work?

Public Forum debaters must anticipate numerous contingencies in planning their cases and must learn to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances as discussions progress. Public Forum's open-ended cross-examination format encourages the development of unique rhetorical strategies. Public Forum debates should be transparent to lay audiences, while providing students with real-world public speaking skills, through the discussion of contentious ideas.

Public Debate

Debate doesn’t need to be limited to the setting of competitive debate tournaments in which only students take part; instead, we feel that debate can operate within a broader context of public participation and embrace different segments of a community.

We strongly encourage members to promote and support public access to debate through the organization of public debates and by inviting the public to debate competitions.

Speech Events

Limited Preparation Events

(i) Impromptu Speaking or thinking on your feet

Students learn to prepare and deliver an original speech on the spot and without preparation. Impromptu Speaking topics range from the meaning of proverbs and abstract words to the significance of events and quotations by famous speakers.

(ii) Extemporaneous Speaking

Students must prepare and deliver an original speech on a current event, with a limited amount of preparation time. Extemporaneous topics are presented in the form of questions and contestants are expected to take a position on the question as well as to justify their stance.

Platform Speaking Events

(i) Informative Speaking

Students prepare and deliver an original speech whose primary purpose is to inform or educate the audience. The speech should describe, clarify, illustrate or define an object, idea, concept or process.

(ii) Persuasive Speaking/Original Oratory

Students prepare and deliver an original speech designed to inspire, reinforce or change the beliefs, attitudes, values or actions of the audience.

Interpretative Events

(i) Prose Interpretation

Students must select, analyze and share a cutting from literature (other than verse or plays) through the art of reading aloud. Prose Interpretation expresses thought through language recorded in sentences and paragraphs. Prose Interpretation includes fiction (short stories, novels) and non-fiction (articles, essays, journals, biographies). An effective Prose Interpretation consists of a selection or selections of materials with literary merit.

(ii) Poetry Interpretation

Students must find, analyze and share a cutting or rhyme through the art of reading aloud. Poetry selections express ideas, experiences or emotions through the creative arrangement of words according to their sound, rhythm and meaning. An effective Poetry Interpretation consists of a selection or selections of material with literary merit.

(iii) Dramatic Interpretation

Students must select, analyze and share a cutting from a play through the art of reading aloud. A Dramatic Interpretation consists of a selection or selections of literary merit that may be drawn from more than one source.

(iv) Duo Dramatic Interpretation

Two students must find, analyze and share a cutting from a play through the art of reading aloud. A Duo Dramatic Interpretation can be either humorous or serious. The cutting should represent the portrayal of one or more characters presented by the two individuals.

(v) Programmed Oral Interpretation

Students must find, analyze and share a programme of thematically linked selections through the art of reading aloud. The selections should be of literary merit, and must be chosen from at least two of the three recognized genres (prose/poetry/drama). 'Different genres' here means that the material must appear in separate pieces of literature and that, for example, a poem included in a short story that appears only in that short story does not constitute a poetry genre.

The 5th IDEA International Aitmatov Debate Academy

We want to ensure the quality of our debate programmes. We can by providing extensive training in how to debate for many different groups. We have modules that include training in debate, interactive teaching methodologies, public communications, advocacy and conflict resolution, new media and debate.

Most of our training sessions are designed for groups of 25 or fewer. Ideal candidates include secondary school and university teachers, students, youth workers and representatives of non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations.

We encourage a learning environment that is built on participation, where individuals feel safe to explore ideas and view topics from a variety of perspectives. Participant-centered teaching methodologies emphasising personal exploration, role-play and group exercises are employed to maximize trainees’ involvement in the learning process; it leads to more meaningful engagement.

Our methodology is based on Action Learning – a bottom up approach that draws on the knowledge in the room. It is designed for engaging young people who are new to debate from as young as 14 and up to 30 years old and allows them to take ownership of their learning process. Trainees learn how to extract the knowledge in the room and how to channel it. This creates a healthy group dynamic and empowers youth to address the issues they are interested in and understand.

We train trainers to use what young people know (the knowledge in the room) and then help them improve in how to say it’ – IDEA trainer.

IDEA’s trainers come from, and train, different societal groups: debate societies, youth centres, educational organisations, schools or universities. They can be students, youth and welfare workers or teachers, and are IDEA’s link to young people because they know and trust them.

Participants on IDEA training holding the IDEA logo

When working with disadvantaged youth, the element of trust is very important. Before they are ready to talk about the issues they have, they must first feel confident and safe in their environment and be able to reflect on why they have the problem.’ – IDEA trainer.     

IDEA trainers pay special attention to ensuring that training is adapted specifically to meet the linguistic, educational and cultural needs of the participants. Whenever possible, IDEA strives to deliver the training in the local language of the trainees, using materials and modules most relevant to the participants. There is no one size fits all. The programme includes exercises and activities that trainers can adapt and tailor to meet the needs of the group. From a 1-day training workshop up to trainings over several days, the debate activities and exercises are all easily adaptable to their own trainees’ level of knowledge and confidence. In each case, trainers get ideas and learn new debate skills that they can use based on their own personal experiences.

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As a charity, we're supported entirely by donations.   Through our strong partnerships and sponsorships, we’re able to reach out to young people living in marginalized communities and bring them valuable life-learning skills in critical thinking, active listening and argumentation in order to participate more actively in society and advocacy and make change happen. 

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We want more young people to develop self-confidence and learn to speak up and express themselves. 

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