Intelligence Squared

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Intelligence Squared
IQ2 logo medium.png
Intelligence Squared logo
Formation 2002
Headquarters Notting Hill, London

Intelligence Squared is an organisation that stages debates around the world. It was founded in 2002 in London where its head office is based, but now operates globally in the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Greece, Ukraine, Chile, Nigeria and Israel. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events.


Intelligence Squared was founded by two media businessmen, Jeremy O'Grady and John Gordon, in 2002.[1] Hannah Kaye has been executive producer in London since 2006. In 2012, the company passed into the new ownership of Amelie von Wedel, Yana Peel and David Legg.[2]

Topics covered include “The problem with this country is the Daily Mail”, “Free market capitalism is so 20th century” and “Putin has been good for Russia”.[3] As well as debates, there have been festivals on subjects such as London / Paris, climate change, and technology, and talks and interviews with figures including Jimmy Carter, Eric Schmidt, Patti Smith and Werner Herzog. In 2006 Intelligence Squared US was set up by Robert Rosenkranz in New York. Since then other Intelligence Squared licensees have begun to operate in Sydney (2008), Kiev in partnership with the Foundation for Effective Governance (2008 – 2014), Hong Kong (2009), Athens (2010) and Israel (2013).

Debate format[edit]

The debates usually are broken into four rounds:

  • 1. Opening Statements
  • 2. Debaters Addressing Each Other Directly
  • 3. Questions From the Audience
  • 4. Closing Statements

Typically, the debate opens with the moderator introducing the debate at hand. In the US version, this is sometimes followed by a short discussion with Robert Rosenkranz, the philanthropist who sponsors Intelligence Squared US, who further discusses the context in which the debate is happening and a brief overview of the different viewpoints that may be presented by each side. Each debater is introduced to the audience and a vote is taken of those in the live audience of their pre-debate opinion on the motion, with the options of "For", "Against", and "Undecided".

  • In the first round, each debater presents their uninterrupted opening statements, which are strictly limited by time and typically set anywhere from two to seven minutes for each speaker. After this round, the moderator gives a summary of the points each side made and introduces the next round.
  • In the second round, debaters from each side may address each other directly. The moderator may or may not interrupt this exchange and will frequently ask questions of either side themselves.
  • In the third round, the audience is allowed to ask questions of the the debaters. These are regulated by the moderator, who often rewords the questions for clarity and declines questions if they appear to be irrelevant to the motion.
  • In the fourth round, each debater presents their uninterrupted closing statements, which, like opening statements, are strictly limited by time and typically set anywhere from two to seven minutes for each speaker.

After the final round, a vote is taken of those in the live audience of their current (post-debate) opinion on the motion once again. Both the pre-debate and post-debate vote counts are then tallied and presented to the audience. The winner is determined by counting which side has changed the most audience members' minds.

Previous speakers include Stephen Fry, Peter Singer,[4] Richard Dawkins,[5] Tony Blair, Christopher Hitchens,[6] Ayaan Hirsi Ali,[7] Nick Gillespie,[8] and Laurence Krauss.[9]


In 2012, Intelligence Squared started a partnership with Google producing the Versus Debates.

The first, titled "It's time to end the War on Drugs", was on 13 March 2012, featuring Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Antonio Maria Costa, Eliot Spitzer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Fernando Cardoso and Julian Assange.[10] The second Versus event was "Hip-hop doesn't enhance society, it degrades it". Q-Tip, KRS-One, Jesse Jackson, Jason Whitlock, dream hampton and more debated the politics of hip-hop to a hall of 2,000 and an online audience of 80,000.

Intelligence Squared on TV[edit]

Intelligence Squared debates have also been broadcast globally on BBC World to audiences of up to eighty million. These have included "George W Bush is the worst American President for the past fifty years", "The Future of Iraq" and "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world". Intelligence Squared also makes the videos of these debates available free of charge on YouTube[11][12][13]

Intelligence Squared in the US[edit]

In September 2006, Intelligence Squared U.S., was launched by Robert Rosenkranz, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, a non-profit organization.[14] IQ2US Intelligence Squared U.S. is a live debate series with the goal of raising the level of public discourse and promoting a realization that, on contentious issues, those who challenge the conventional wisdom have intellectually respectable and often persuasive viewpoints. Intelligence Squared U.S. encourages citizens to “Think Twice” about their opinions and participate in the conversation, and it provides a forum for balanced discussion that transcends emotion and ideology. Through an annual series of between 10 and 12 live Oxford-style debates,brings together experts and audience around public policy and cultural issues. IQ2US debates air on the Bloomberg Television network and are heard on more than 220 NPR stations nationwide. Intelligence Squared U.S. attracts top tier thinkers and the world's leading authorities debating the most pressing issues of the day. Dana Wolfe is the executive producer and John Donvan of ABC News is currently the moderator.

Intelligence Squared in Israel[edit]

In 2013, Intelligence Squared Israel was launched by Roxanne Horesh. The first live Oxford-style debate was held on April 2013 in Tel Aviv Museum of Art on the subject "If Israel continues on its current course, it cannot remain both a democratic and Jewish state".

See also[edit]


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  14. ^ The Rosenkranz Foundation Website

External links[edit]