Our history

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.