Founder and Director
When Tony launched Debating London, a public debate series in 2009 for graduates who missed their university debating societies, he never planned to build a training programme or a business out of it. Three years later, amid growing popular demand for debate training, he began running one-off workshops and in 2015 launched the country's first formal training programme, marking the birth of the Great Debaters Club.
Before the club became his full-time occupation, Tony had spent four years in public relations as a press officer and five years in sales as a recruitment consultant, before becoming an HR manager in the charity sector. He also led an active public life, running for council in the borough of Camden in 2010 and chairing the European Movement in London in 2012.
In short because it is a valuable skill that helps us make better decisions. Debating is often seen as the preserve of schools and universities, yet the competencies it brings together, such as public speaking, critical thinking, and conflict resolution, are all vital to the success of our careers, relationships, and public life long after we leave full-time education.
Who are our members?
Strangely, you may think, mostly people who never joined a debate club at school or university because they only became aware of its relevance to their personal and professional development later in life. The vast majority of our members are senior professionals in their field and come from a broad range of industries, including: financial services, marketing, the law, education, and the NHS, while approximately 10% run their own businesses or social enterprises.
What do we hope to achieve?
Naturally, we want to help our members achieve their own individual goals, while furthering those we set for ourselves as a club too. When we last asked members what they got out of their time with us, 83% said it had helped them to improve the way they structure their arguments. They also cited more specific applications, such as deciding how to vote in elections, defending their ideas during complex negotiations at work, and feeling more confident about questioning authority figures.
For our part, we want to create a safe space for people to disagree without having to worry about the fallout. Exploring issues that divide opinion helps us to test and refine ideas that challenge the status quo, to work out not just where we stand, but why, and to make difficult decisions under pressure when pleasing everyone is not an option. The aim of a great debate is not for everyone to agree, but for everyone to accept and understand the final decision, even when they disagree with it.
How It Works
A simple three-step guide to using your membership of the club
Attend a training workshop to learn how to debate in the morning masterclass and then put it into practice in the afternoon mock debate.
Mock debates are rehearsals for live public debates on the same topic. When you've spoken in one of these, try applying your training in a live environment by taking part in our bi-monthly public debate series: 'Debating London'.
Public debates are followed by feedback summaries, which include: results of the 'before and after' audience votes; findings from the post-debate audience focus group; a Q&A summary, and your debate trainer's feedback. Review these and use future training workshops and debates to advance your development.
When you share your personal data on this website, you are consenting to being contacted by the Great Debaters Club for either: the specific purpose of finding out more about a specific event, product, or service on offer; or the general purpose of being added to a mailing list to receive updates on events, products, or services on offer.
WHO WE ARE The Great Debaters Club is a Limited Company that hosts the twice monthly public debate series, Debating London, and runs a training programme for paying club members and guests. We are registered with Companies House and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The club's company number is 08145920 and our ICO registration number is ZA383930. As the sole employee of the company, Tony Koutsoumbos serves as both company Director and Data Controller. PERSONAL DATA WE COLLECT All personal data collected by the Great Debaters Club is deliberately and voluntarily shared by the individuals to whom that data relates (data subjects) by asking to join the club's mailing list or becoming a member of the club. The only data held on individuals on the club's mailing list are their given names, email addresses, and a record of which emails sent by the club they have opened and read. The same data is held on individuals who have signed up for membership of the club, in addition to their home addresses, their membership tariffs, and a record of private communications exchanged between them and the club's Director, Tony Koutsoumbos. The club does not collect or store off-line the IP addresses of any individual that interacts with us, or details of the social media profiles and posts of individuals who join any of our groups or follow us on any platform. The club does not have access to members' bank details with the exception of those who choose to pay for their membership via a direct transfer to the club's bank account instead of using either of our approved payment processing websites: GoCardeless or PayPal. These details are accessible only through the club's secure on-line banking portal and are not stored anywhere else or shared with any third parties. The club also collects data on whether paid members are in full-time education or in receipt of state benefits, but only when given freely and required for the purpose of accessing discounts available exclusively to those members. These data are recorded on the club's membership database and are not shared with any third parties. During our public debates, we also take photos of speakers and audience members, which we use to publicise the activities of the club, and we make audio recordings of the debate, which we use to write feedback summaries for the speakers. HOW WE COLLECT PERSONAL DATA All personal data we collect is given freely and with full knowledge of the purpose for which it will be used, which is clearly stated. Specifically, we collect personal data in the following ways: - through individuals adding themselves to our mailing list via our two websites: www.greatdebaters.co.uk and www.debatinglondon.com - through individuals signing up to become paid members of the club, through one of our payment processing websites, or directly by confirming their intention to join by email and - when necessary - making payment via a on-line transfer direct to the club's bank account. - through individuals adding their names and email addresses to sign-up forms distributed at events, which are promptly destroyed as soon as their details are added to the club's mailing list. - names and email addresses are also collected when individuals post queries through our websites, email us directly, or sign up for specific events through Google Forms or Eventbrite. However, these details are not stored and are not added to our mailing list unless that individual specifically instructs us to do so. - photo and audio data are only collected during public debates (and very occasionally training workshops), which we announce in advance. Audio data from audience members is anonymised with only speakers named during recordings, consent for which is obtained when they join the club. Any participants who do not wish to be included in photographs are directed to the club's photographer to register their objection. HOW WE KEEP PERSONAL DATA SECURE Personal data held by the Great Debaters Club is stored on an encrypted password-protected database, which can only be accessed by the club's Director and Data Controller, Tony Koutsoumbos. We have reviewed the privacy policies of third party partners that hold personal data and sensitive personal data, such as bank details, of club members and individuals on our mailing list to ensure they are compliant with the GDPR, updating our agreements with them where necessary. In the event of a data breach, the club's Data Controller, Tony Koutsoumbos, will immediately notify the Information Commissioner's Officer (ICO) and any individuals affected by the breach, and keep both updated of the measures taken to remedy the breach. SHARING PERSONAL DATA We only ever share your personal data if required to do so for a legitimate purpose or to comply with a public duty. We do not share, under any circumstances, the personal data we hold on any individual for marketing purposes without their explicit consent. The circumstances under which we do share personal data include: - names of individuals or organisations, and the services or products purchased by them, issued with a receipt or invoice by the club, which we share with our accountancy firm for the purpose of processing the club's tax returns. - connecting fellow club members by email, so they can communicate with each other when planning to speak together in a debate. - sharing access to attendee names and email addresses when co-hosting an event with another organisation granted admin privileges on an event page hosted by an on-line platform, such as eventbrite or meetup. This is for the sole purpose of monitoring ticket sales and partner organisations are not permitted to email attendees directly, other than to provide them with information about the event they have signed up to attend. HOW YOU CAN ACCESS YOUR PERSONAL DATA All individuals whose personal data is held by the club are entitled to request the details of the data held and receive a timely response free of charge. You can do this by emailing the data controller at firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out a query form on one of the club's website. Queries should be addressed to Tony Koutsoumbos, but will be still processed and responded to in the same manner even if they are not. HOW YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE Individuals on the club mailing list can unsubscribe by hitting the unsubscribe button at the bottom of any emails they receive from the club, which are almost always sent via messaging platform, Mailchimp. Club members who are signed up to our training programme can unsubscribe by sending an email to club Director, Tony Koutsoumbos with the subject heading 'unsubscribe', which will be acknowledged by a confirmation email and result in your email address being removed from the members mailing list and the club's Google Group for members. Please note, if you do unsubscribe, you will be responsible for checking the details of upcoming training workshops and events, which you will be able to view on the club's website.