|Official website www.demos.co.uk|
|Registered charity no. 1042046|
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.
In the run up to the 1997 UK general election it was seen as being close to the Labour Party, in particular ex-prime minister Tony Blair. It is however, independent of any political party. 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.
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'. It also did an increasing amount of work internationally. Demos works with a number of partners including government departments, public sector agencies and charities.
Madeleine Bunting, previously a columnist at The Guardian, was appointed Director of the organisation in 2006, but resigned shortly after taking up the post over differences with the trustees concerning the direction of the organisation. She then returned to The Guardian and was succeeded as Director by Catherine Fieschi. Catherine Fieschi stepped down in July 2008 and was succeeded by Richard Reeves, 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.
On August 9, 2006, British Home Secretary Dr John Reid gave a speech at a Demos conference stating that Britons may have to modify their notion of freedom, citing that "freedom is being misused and abused by terrorists."
Over the summer of 2008 Demos cut back its workforce (from 23 full time staff in January 2008 to 17 by September 2008) and did not attend any political party conferences, leading to speculation that it was in financial difficulty.
In 2008 Richard Reeves was appointed as Demos' Director. A writer and columnist for Prospect magazine, Reeves was a former winner of the Guardian's 'Thinker to Watch' and his biography of John Stuart Mill was shortlisted for the Channel Four Political Book of the Year. Since Reeves' appointment staff numbers have risen back to 20. In May 2009 leading Conservatives George Osborne and David Willetts joined the Advisory Board which also includes two Labour politicians and three Liberal Democrats.
Demos is currently at the forefront of much of British progressive thinking and has several core research programmes for 2010: Capabilities, Citizenship, Security, Economic Life, Progressive Austerity and Extremism. They also run two political research programmes; an investigation into progressive Conservatism and a project on the future of the Left (openleft.co.uk) with James Purnell MP.
Demos has an open access policy which means that all publications are available to freely download under a Creative Commons licence.
Demos is unrelated to the US think tank of the same name.