Demos (UK think tank)

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Formation1993; 30 years ago (1993)
TypeThink tank
Legal statusCharity (no. 1042046)
Headquarters15 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DD
  • London
Chief Executive
Polly Curtis

Demos is a cross party think tank based in the United Kingdom with a cross-party political viewpoint. Founded in 1993, Demos works with a number of partners including government departments, public sector agencies and charities. It specialises in public policymaking in a range of areas - from education and skills to health and housing.

Demos houses the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM), which leads the study of how the rise of the digital world affects politics, policy and decision-making.

The current Chief Executive is Polly Curtis, a former journalist and editor at The Guardian, HuffPost UK, Tortoise Media, and PA Media.[1] The organisation is an independently registered educational 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]

On 9 August 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'.[5]

Over the summer of 2008, Demos cut back its workforce (from 23 full-time staff in January 2008[6] to 17 by September 2008[7]) and did not attend any political party conferences, leading to speculation that it was in financial difficulty.[8][9]

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.[10]

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.[11] She left Demos in 2012, with David Goodhart taking over as director. In 2011 Ben Rogers created Centre for London within Demos, before establishing it as an independent registered charity in 2013.[citation needed]

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. CASM lead digital media monitoring for the 2015 British Election and focuses on how the rise of the digital world affects politics, policy and decision-making.[12]

In January 2014, Claudia Wood became Demos's Chief Executive. She joined Demos in 2009, after leading policy in other UK think tanks and in Tony Blair's strategy unit.[13]

Polly Mackenzie joined Demos as the new Director in January 2018. She previously worked for Nick Clegg from 2006 to 2015, helping to write the 2010 Coalition Agreement, and served as Director of Policy to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2010 to 2015.[14]

List of Directors and Chief Executives[edit]

Director/Chief Executive Years active
Polly Mackenzie 2018–present
Claudia Wood 2014-2018
David Goodhart 2012-2014
Kitty Ussher 2010-2012
Richard Reeves 2008-2010
Catherine Fieschi 2007-2008
Madeleine Bunting 2007
Tom Bentley 1998-2006
Geoff Mulgan 1993-1997


Demos is a member of the British Polling Council and a company partner of the Market Research Society.[15] They are the only think tank in the UK using, an online tool used to gather open-ended feedback from large groups of people, for the purposes of policy development. They also conduct social listening through Method 52, their in-house social media analysis technology developed in partnership with the University of Sussex.[citation needed]

Demos historically published a quarterly journal, titled Demos Quarterly,[16] which features articles from politicians, academics and Demos researchers.[citation needed]

Centre of the Analysis of Social Media[edit]

The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) is a collaboration between Demos and the Text Analytics Group at the University of Sussex, using social media research to gain insight and understanding on political, social and policy issues.[citation needed]

The current Director of CASM is Alex Krasodomski-Jones. Previous Directors include Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller.[citation needed]

Key people[edit]

Role Name
Interim Chief Executive[17] Polly Curtis
Chair of Trustees Julie Mellor
Head of Research Harry Carr
Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media Alex Krasodomski-Jones
Director of External Affairs Maeve Thompson
Director of Operations Heather Williams-Taplin
Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media Carl Miller
Senior Fellow Charles Seaford


Demos has been rated as 'broadly transparent' in its funding by Transparify.[18] In November 2022, the funding transparency website Who Funds You? gave Demos an A grade, the highest transparency rating (rating goes from A to E).[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Demos - Polly Curtis - Chief Executive". Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  2. ^ Times Higher Education - Demos's brave new words
  3. ^ "About - Demos".
  4. ^ Hope, Toby Helm and Christopher (10 September 2018). "The top twelve think tanks in Britain" – via
  5. ^ "Terror 'may force freedom curbs'". 9 August 2006 – via
  6. ^ "Demos | People". Archived from the original on 18 January 2008.
  7. ^ "Demos".
  8. ^ Correspondent, James Kirkup, Political (28 August 2008). "Demos, architect of Cool Britannia, denies financial problems" – via{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Dawar, Anil (28 August 2008). "Demos thinktank shuns party conferences". the Guardian.
  10. ^ Demos. "David Cameron launches Demos' Character Inquiry" – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ Demos (16 September 2010). "Demos appoints Kitty Ussher as Director". Archived from the original on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos".
  13. ^ "Claudia Wood - biography".
  14. ^ "Polly Mackenzie - Demos".
  15. ^ "Introducing the Public Participation Lab". Demos. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Demos Quarterly".
  17. ^ "BBC Two - Daily Politics, 15/05/2018". BBC. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  18. ^ "New Report: How Has Think Tank Transparency Evolved in 2018?". Transparify. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Who Funds You? Demos".

External links[edit]