Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared is a media company that organizes live debates and other cultural events around the world. It was founded in 2002 in London, where its head office is based, and it now also operates in the US, Australia, and Hong Kong. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events. It produces video and podcast versions of them on a regular basis on YouTube and other platforms.

Intelligence Squared
Intelligence Squared logo
Founded2002; 18 years ago (2002)
HeadquartersNotting Hill, London
No. of locationsLondon, New York City, Sydney, Athens, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Santiago
Managing directorMatt McAllester


Intelligence Squared was founded by two media entrepreneurs, Jeremy O'Grady and John Gordon, in 2002.[1] In 2012, the company was bought by art consultant Amelie von Wedel, CEO of Serpentine Galleries Yana Peel, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia Executive General Manager David Legg.[2] Hannah Kaye has been executive producer since 2006, and Matt McAllester became managing director in 2018.

As well as debates, Intelligence Squared also hosts talks and interviews with such figures as President Jimmy Carter, Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, Patti Smith, and Werner Herzog. It also stages discussions and panels.

In 2006, Intelligence Squared US was established by the philanthropist and CEO of Delphi Financial Group Robert Rosenkranz through his foundation. It has hosted hundreds of debates across the US. Other Intelligence Squared licensees operate in Sydney (since 2008) and Hong Kong (since 2009). The company has also had partnerships in Kiev (2008 – 2014), Athens (2010), Israel (2013), and Chile (2014).


Intelligence Squared uses the traditional Oxford-style debating format. A motion is proposed, with two speakers arguing in favour and two against. Opening speeches are around 10 minutes in length. This is followed by Q and A from the floor and a lively dialogue between the speakers and short closing remarks. The audience is polled on their opinion both before and after the debate and the winning side is determined by who changed the most audience members' minds.

Themes covered by the debates include "Foreign Policy", "History & Social Policy", "Politics & Economics", "Science & Technology", "Art & Culture", and "Environment".[3]

Another strand is the "Cultural Combat" debates, in which two cultural figures are pitted against each other. These began in 2013 with "Verdi vs. Wagner", which was staged at London’s Royal Opera House with a sixty-piece live orchestra, Stephen Fry in the chair, and John Tomlinson singing Wotan.

Podcast and videoEdit

All Intelligence Squared events are recorded and released on the company’s YouTube channel[4] and as part of a weekly podcast series which has more than a million followers.[5] The company also records standalone podcasts with authors and other intellectuals.

Intelligence Squared on TVEdit

Intelligence Squared debates have also been broadcast globally on BBC World.[6]

Intelligence Squared in the USEdit

In September 2006, Intelligence Squared US was launched by Robert Rosenkranz via The Rosenkranz Foundation. Their debates have aired on Bloomberg Television, and from 2006 to 2012, they were distributed by NPR.[7] Currently, they are self-distributing via the Public Radio Exchange,[8] and John Donvan of ABC News regularly moderates the debates.


Intelligence Squared has partnered with numerous organisations and companies. In 2012, the company produced the Versus debates with Google. The first debate, titled "It's Time to End the War on Drugs", was held on 13 March 2012. The second Versus event was "Hip-hop On Trial". Intelligence Squared has also staged events in partnership with Shell [9] on topics related to climate change and sustainable energy use. Other partnerships include The National Trust, Wellington College, Abbey Road Studios, Baker McKenzie in New York City, Investec, Christie's, the World Health Organization in New York, the United Nations in Geneva, and the University of Chicago.


  1. ^ Acherson, Neal (March 28, 2004). "How the chattering classes turned to talk". The Observer. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  2. ^ "Who We Are : Intelligence Squared". Intelligence Squared.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Intelligence Squared YouTube channel". YouTube.
  5. ^ "Intelligence Squared". SoundCloud. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  6. ^ "BBC World News - Intelligence Squared Debate". BBC. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  7. ^ "NPR ends distribution of 'Intelligence Squared U.S.'".
  8. ^ "Intelligence Squared U.S." Public Radio Exchange.
  9. ^ "Intelligence2 Bespoke Debates". Intelligence2.

External linksEdit