International Debate Education Association

International Debate Education Association

Infobox Company
company_name = International Debate Education Association
company_type = Non Profit Organization
foundation = 1999
location = New York City, New York
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Salem, Oregon
key_people = Jurate Motiejunaite, "Executive Director"
industry =
products =
revenue =
operating_income =
net_income =
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The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) is an association that develops, organizes and promotes debate and debate-related activities in communities throughout the world. Established in 1999 to coordinate pilot debate programs created by the Open Society Institute (OSI), IDEA acts as an independent membership organization of national debate clubs, associations, programs, and individuals who share a common purpose: to promote mutual understanding and democracy globally by supporting discussion and active citizenship locally.

The Need for Debate

Although debate was not 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. On a larger scale, school debate programs offered opportunities for students to participate in an ongoing, open, and critical exchange of ideas while learning about minorities and different cultures within their own countries.

The OSI debate program was an immediate success, and its growth was rapid. At the secondary school level, debate clubs popped up all over Central and Eastern Europe. In 1997, university students were encouraged to participate in international debate tournaments; this was the first step towards a closely-knit international debate community which crossed national, political, and ethnic boundaries.

Fostering the Next Generation of Civic Leadership

Although it maintains an international presence, IDEA places particular emphasis on those societies where democracy is in its infancy and where negotiated resolution to conflicts and cross-community dialogue are little-established concepts. By offering young people the opportunity to debate the important issues facing them, IDEA strives to cultivate and nurture an engaged, democratic citizenry, underscoring the notions of tolerance, international cooperation, and freedom of expression.

A Global Reach with a Local Focus

IDEA promotes its programs and its mission via a wide range of educational and strategic initiatives, from curriculum development and grant-making to international student exchanges and an annual, much-celebrated international youth forum. IDEA is registered in the Netherlands and the United States; its debates take place in over 40 languages, in over 25 countries throughout the world.

The story of the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) begins in 1989, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of communism across Central and Eastern Europe. At that time, a new age was heralded for the region, and the world. Yet amidst celebrations and an air of enormous promise, change was not forthcoming.

Economic growth and social change – with specific regard to education – remained stagnant. Antiquated methods of teaching, rooted in the notion that only one truth existed (that of the State), and coupled with a lack of dialogue, underscored frustratingly slow progress and bred discontent among a generation of youth that had anticipated so much more.

Disenchantment among the population – especially among students – was palpable, as evidenced by a precipitous drop in the reading of newspapers, voting, running for elected office, and following politics. 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) launched its first network debate program.

The Formation of IDEA

In 1999, as a means to coordinate its now numerous debate programs and activities, and to develop international standards regarding debate, OSI created an independent international body - The International Debate Education Association.

Since its inception, IDEA has grown from a collection of debate clubs into the pre-eminent global debate organization, touching the lives of over 70,000 secondary school students, 15,000 university students and 13,000 teachers in 27 countries. Having introduced debate throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Central Asia and Haiti, IDEA continues to expand and thrive, bringing its ideals of freedom of expression, tolerance, and open society to communities across the globe.

Mission Statement

The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) believes that free and open discussion is essential to the establishment and preservation of open, democratic societies.

Through debate - a powerful means of encouraging critical thinking, personal expression and tolerance for the opinions of others, IDEA provides students and teachers the opportunity to examine issues affecting their lives and their communities. To this end, IDEA creates broad and inclusive debate clubs that encourage participation by all segments of the population, including ethnic minorities, and establishes independent, national debate associations to promote, organize, and sustain debate activities in countries throughout the world.


IDEA is registered in the Netherlands as an international, not-for-profit, public benefit organization, in accordance with the laws of the Netherlands and in the United States as a public charity recognized as a 501(c)3. The registered offices of IDEA are located in Amsterdam and New York City. Currently, IDEA also has an office in Salem, Oregon.

IDEA Netherlands (hereafter referred to as IDEA NL) and IDEA Incorporated (hereafter referred to as IDEA US) are separate organizations that operate independently yet cooperate informally with each other.


In order to insure the quality of debate programs and to promote debate, IDEA and its members provide extensive training for different target groups. Training modules include trainings in debate, interactive teaching methodologies, public communications, advocacy and conflict resolution.

Most trainings are designed for groups of 25 or fewer. Ideal candidates include secondary school and university teachers, students, youth workers and representatives of non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations.

IDEA believes in creating participatory learning environments where individuals feel safe to explore ideas and view topics from a variety of perspectives. Participant-centered teaching methodologies emphasizing personal investigation, role-play, and group exercises are employed in order to maximize trainees involvement in the learning process which leads to a more meaningful engagement. The participatory learning environments and techniques implemented by IDEA and its members during trainings mirror the values promoted during the trainings--encouraging creativity, collaboration, perspective sharing, active listening, and responsibility.

Training Teachers

In order to build local capacity for professional debate instruction and training, IDEA and its members have developed a model of the training of trainers and a certification process. This model is designed exclusively for those participants who possess the inclination and skills to serve as trainers in the future.

IDEA believes that Individuals identified to lead future trainings should receive additional training in facilitation and meet certain standards of professionalism. Qualified trainers who have completed the certification process go on to design and facilitate workshops (including the preparation of training materials) in different areas of debate instruction and for different audiences. This extensive training program is based upon portfolio review and one or more evaluative workshops. Following a submission of a portfolio with teaching resources, successful candidates are invited to a training of trainers workshop during which they review and discuss methods of interactive teaching, exchange practical advice and experience in training, review case studies and work in groups to develop and present single training sessions (including all associated materials). These mock sessions are observed by IDEA's most experienced trainers (so called Master Trainers) and IDEA certification is granted only to individual who show the highest professionalism in training and it is subject to periodical reviews.

Training Judges

Offered to anyone interested in becoming a judge at local, national or international debate competitions. Seminars are tailored to the particular audience. All IDEA member countries employ the same standards: the international rules and regulations of judging in the Karl Popper debate format.

Vocational Training

IDEA conducts adult seminars that use debate skills to prepare people for the job market. Attendees are taught how to give presentations, present themselves during job interviews, negotiate and mediate and other skills. To accommodate trainees varying schedules, vocational seminars are structured in short sessions that take place over a series of evenings or in intensive weekends.

IDEA Youth Forum

The IDEA Youth Forum (IYF) is an international event organized by the International Debate Education Association that brings together students, coaches and trainers from all over the world in for two weeks of debating, learning and exchanging ideas on global topics.

Celebrating Debate and Critical Thinking

The Forum is one of the most important single events organized by IDEA - on an annual basis, it brings together secondary school and university students and teachers from IDEA member organizations for a period of two weeks. Each delegation includes ad least one team of secondary school students [three persons aged 16-19] , a teacher and a debate coach. The number of participants revolves around 300.


Each year, the Forum is hosted by one of the members of IDEA and it takes place in a different country each year.

* 1995 - Tata, Hungary
* 1996 - Celakovice, Czech Republic
* 1997 - Jurmala, Latvia
* 1998 - Borovets, Bulgaria
* 1999 - Veli Losinj, Croatia
* 2000 - Ustron, Poland
* 2001 - St. Petersburg, Russia
* 2002 - Podbanske, Slovakia
* 2003 - Ljubljana, Slovenia
* 2004 - Roosta, Estonia
* 2005 - Struga, Macedonia
* 2006 - Predeal, Romania
* 2007 - Trest, Czech Republic
* 2008 - Smolyan, Bulgaria
* 2009 - Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Competitive Events

The Forum revolves around two separate competitive events, National Tournament [Tournament of Nations] , as well as Mixed-Team Tournament, featuring teams composed of members from different countries. The tournaments feature two separate themes [topics, resolutions] as a guideing point for the Forum happenings. Traditionally, the Tournament of Nations features the topic of the previous Mixed-Team Tournament.

In the past the themes of the Forums included, but not limited do, freedom of the press, the welfare state, the environment, and cultural rights. For a complete listing of the past and current topics, as well as winning teams and best speakers, please see the bottom of the article.

The style of debate practiced at the Forum is Karl Popper [KP] .


The official language of the Forum is English.

Educational Components

The program for the Forum includes content sessions on the proposed topics, general sessions on debate, "lab" sessions centered on the preparation for debates.

Content Sessions

The main goal of the sessions on the topic is to provide students with the knowledge and understanding of the problems related to the subject area which is determined by the particular topic. This component of the educational track for students includes the following:

* definitions and conceptualization [mind-mapping]
* theory
* study of primary and secondary sources
* case-studies
* simulations

Debate Sessions

The main goal of the sessions on debate is to enhance students understanding of debate theory and practice and includes the following:
* case building
* argumentation
* various debate strategies
* organization
* presentation

Lab Sessions

The main goal of the lab sessions is to provide students with the opportunity to test their knowledge and skills gained in the previous two sessions by working in international groups on preparation for debates. The debate tournament that takes place at the end of the Forum measures what the students have learned about the topic, how well they have developed their debate skills, and how much they have gained from working with their coaches and interactions with each other.

Developing Skills

The Forum prepares students for the role of socially-aware citizens by providing them with the opportunity to closely examine issues of economic, social, political, and cultural importance. Through debate and involvement in other forms of public advocacy, the students learn about democratic procedures, developing tolerant attitudes towards the opinions of others. The Forum provides them with knowledge that is imperative to the citizens living in a pluralistic and open society.

During the Forum the participants develop their skills of personal expression and critical thinking. These abilities are invaluable in the context of modern society were personal success of individual depends on his ability to analyze complex issues, solve problems, and effectively communicate with others.


The Forum offers a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about each other's culture to explore their differences and to discover similarities. Many students participating in the Forum come from the regions which a have a sad record of ethnic tensions and it is of vital importance that these students can meet in an international and tolerant environment and learn how to discuss various issues in a peaceful and reasonable manner.

The Forum also provides the teachers and coaches with the opportunity to satisfy their need for new and innovative teaching methodologies through:

* providing formal and informal setting for the exchange of experience in teaching debate and public advocacy
* providing the environment for the creation and exchange of educational materials
* providing the opportunity to learn more about a selected topic area and methods about introducing the theme into formal and informal education.
* providing the opportunity to gain experience in working with international students

Past Topics

* 1995, The State has an Obligation to its Poor
* 1996, Government Censorship of Individual Expression for the Good of the Society is Justified, National Service should be Mandatory for All Citizens
* 1997, Open Societies Require Open Borders
* 1998, The State Should provide Education only in its Official Language
* 1999, Civil Disobedience is Justified
* 2000, Protection of Environment should take precedence over Economic Development
* 2001, The United Nations Should Expand the Protection of Cultural Rights
* 2004, It is Better to Focus on a Harm Reduction Strategy than a Law Enforcement Strategy when Dealing with Drug Abuse
* 2005, A Policy Should be Adopted to Promote Global Compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child
* 2006, The World's Fresh Water Should be Considered Common Property
* 2007, Hate Speech

External links

* International Debate Education Association Official website of IDEA.
* [ IDEA Youth Forum] Official website of the IDEA International Summer Youth Forum.

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