Demos (UK think tank)

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Demos think tank logo.JPG
Formation1993; 27 years ago (1993)
TypeThink tank
Legal statusCharity (no. 1042046)
Headquarters76 Vincent Square, SW1P 2PD
  • London
Chief Executive
Polly Mackenzie

Demos is a left-wing 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.

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

The current Chief Executive is Polly Mackenzie, who joined the think tank in January 2018 and previously worked as the Director of Policy to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-15.

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

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] 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 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'.[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 2011 Ben Rogers created Centre for London within Demos, before establishing it as an independent registered charity in 2013.

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 led digital media monitoring for the 2015 British Election and focuses on how the rise of the digital world affects politics, policy and decision-making.[17]

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.[18]

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 2010-15.[19]

Key people[edit]

Role Name
Chief Executive[20] Polly Mackenzie
Head of Research Heather Rolfe
Chief Economist Kitty Ussher
Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media Alex Krasodomski-Jones
Director of External Affairs Maeve Thompson
Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media Carl Miller
Senior Fellow Jamie Bartlett
Senior Fellow Charles Seaford


Demos has been rated as 'broadly transparent' in its funding by Transparify[21] and has been given a B grade for funding transparency by Who Funds You?[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Demos Quarterly".
  2. ^ Times Higher Education - Demos's brave new words
  3. ^ "About - Demos".
  4. ^ a b Hope, Toby Helm and Christopher (10 September 2018). "The top twelve think tanks in Britain" – via
  5. ^ Brook, Stephen (19 October 2006). "Madeleine Bunting quits Demos and returns to the Guardian". the Guardian.
  6. ^ The Spectator: Richard Reeves to be the new director of Demos
  7. ^ "Path to true happiness 'revealed'". 15 November 2005 – via
  8. ^ "Terror 'may force freedom curbs'". 9 August 2006 – via
  9. ^ "Demos | People". Archived from the original on 18 January 2008.
  10. ^ "Demos".
  11. ^ Correspondent, James Kirkup, Political (28 August 2008). "Demos, architect of Cool Britannia, denies financial problems" – via
  12. ^ Dawar, Anil (28 August 2008). "Demos thinktank shuns party conferences". the Guardian.
  13. ^ Demos. "David Cameron launches Demos' Character Inquiry" – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ "About the Commission on Assisted Dying". Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  15. ^ Helm, Toby (1 January 2012). "End the ban on assisted suicide, report will urge the government". The Observer. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  16. ^ Demos (16 September 2010). "Demos appoints Kitty Ussher as Director". Archived from the original on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  17. ^ "Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos".
  18. ^ "Claudia Wood - biography".
  19. ^ "Polly Mackenzie - Demos".
  20. ^ "BBC Two - Daily Politics, 15/05/2018". BBC. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  21. ^ "New Report: How Has Think Tank Transparency Evolved in 2018?". Transparify. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  22. ^ "Demos | Who Funds You?". Retrieved 7 July 2019.

External links[edit]