Demos (UK think tank)

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Not to be confused with Demos (US think tank).
Demos think tank logo.JPG
Formation 1993
Legal status Charity (no. 1042046)
  • London

Demos is a think tank based in the United Kingdom with a cross-party political viewpoint. It was founded in 1993 and specialises in social policy, developing evidence-based solutions in a range of areas, from education and skills to health and housing.

The current Chief Executive is Claudia Wood, who joined the think tank in 2009 and previously worked for Tony Blair’s strategy unit. David Goodhart is Chair of the Demos Advisory Board, which includes former Attorney General Lord Falconer, Baroness O’Neill and Sir Peter Bazalgette.

Demos publishes a quarterly journal, titled Demos Quarterly, [1] which features articles from politicians, academics and Demos researchers.

The organisation is an independently registered charity.


Demos was founded in 1993 by former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, and Geoff Mulgan, who became its first director. It was formed in response to what Mulgan, Jacques and others saw as a crisis in politics in Britain, with voter engagement in decline and political institutions unable in their view to adapt to major social changes. Demos was conceived as a network of networks which could draw together different sources of ideas and expertise to improve public policy.[2]

In the run up to the 1997 general election it was seen as being close to the Labour Party, in particular its then leader Tony Blair. It defines itself, however, as independent of any political party.[3] Geoff Mulgan went on to work inside Downing Street in 1997. At that time Demos was seen as central to New Labour's vision for Britain.[4]

Between 1998 and 2006, under Director Tom Bentley, it moved away from being just a think tank and an increasing part of its workload was described as 'public interest consultancy'.[citation needed] It also did an increasing amount of work internationally. Demos works with a number of partners including government departments, public sector agencies and charities.[4]

In 2007, a brief spell by Madeleine Bunting as Director was followed by the appointment of Catherine Fieschi,[5] who stepped down in July 2008 and was succeeded by Richard Reeves,[6] a former economic journalist, Director of Research at the Work Foundation and biographer of John Stuart Mill. Reeves also co-presented the 2005 BBC programme 'Making Slough Happy', a social experiment to improve the well-being of residents of a British town.[7]

On August 9, 2006, in a speech at a Demos conference, British Home Secretary Dr John Reid stated that Britons 'may have to modify their notion of freedom', as a result of his plans, claiming that freedom is 'misused and abused by terrorists.'[8]

Over the summer of 2008 Demos cut back its workforce (from 23 full-time staff in January 2008[9] to 17 by September 2008[10]) and did not attend any political party conferences, leading to speculation that it was in financial difficulty.[11][12]

In 2010 David Cameron, then leader of the opposition Conservative Party, launched Demos’s Character Inquiry, giving a speech on the importance of parenting and early years support.[13]

Later that year, Demos started the Commission on Assisted Dying, which looked into the 'legal and ethical status of assisted dying'.[14][15]

Following his appointment in 2010 as Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Richard Reeves stepped down as Demos's Director and was replaced by former Economic Secretary to the Treasury Kitty Ussher.[16] She left Demos in 2012, with David Goodhart taking over as Director.

In January 2012, Demos set up the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) to research trends in social media, and the role online conversations can play in political engagement and social policy research.[17]

In early 2014, Goodhart became chair of the newly launched Demos Advisory Board, with members including Lord Falconer, Baroness O’Neill, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Baroness Falkner and Demos co-founder Geoff Mulgan.[18]

The current Chief Executive is Claudia Wood. She joined Demos in 2009 after stints at other think tanks and in Tony Blair’s strategy unit.[19]

Current projects[edit]

As of 2014, Demos has several core research programmes: Welfare & public services, Good business, Citizenship, Integration, and Social media analysis.

Noteworthy recent projects include Demos’s year-long Commission on Residential Care,[20] Poverty in Perspective[21] – which contained an in-depth analysis of the everyday experience of different forms of poverty across the UK, the housing report Top of the Ladder,[22] and an analysis of the harmful impact of different forms of debt.[23]

Demos has an open access policy, which means that all its publications are available to freely download under a Creative Commons licence.

Demos is unrelated either to the US think tank of the same name or to Demos Helsinki, the Nordic research and development organisation.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]