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Copenhagen Debate Club

Project Overview

Fosters critical thinking and engaged citizens by training youth in public speaking and debate.

Identifying the Problem

Theis was troubled by what he saw as the general public’s lack of engagement in public matters, political life and general societal debate. He strongly believes that to prevent politics and social development from being available exclusively to the elite, it is necessary for members of the general public to have the skills and confidence to stand up for their values by engaging in critical dialogue.

While attending a seminar hosted by the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, Theis met an inspiring group of Croatian and Hungarian debaters. The debaters had been pioneers in their respective countries, establishing debating communities in parts of Europe where university debate had not yet rooted. Theis was motivated by their stories of success, and decided to try his hand at bringing competitive debate to the youth of Denmark.

Creating A Solution

With the help of experienced and committed debaters from the Western Balkans and Central Europe, Theis established the Copenhagen Debate Club, the first competitive debate club in Denmark. Through weekly trainings, the club teaches debate skills to university students and other interested youth in order to sharpen their ability to develop and deliver sound and coherent arguments, express their values and increase their confidence.

In order to gain the necessary skills to become a trainer and chairman of the debate society, Theis attended international debate trainings and tournaments. He also worked with debating societies in Budapest, Hungary, Zagreb, Croatia and Lund, Sweden. The International Debate Academy Slovenia was especially helpful in providing Theis with the knowledge and skills necessary to take on this project. 

While the Copenhagen Debate Club is open to students and non-students, some tournaments can only be entered by university students. Over the several years that this project has been in existence, upwards of 150 students have been trained in important debate skills. Those who have participated have learned valuable skills in debate, public speaking and crafting sound, logical arguments, all of which are important to fostering an informed and involved civic society. Theis has since handed over the Copenhagen Debate Club to the next generation of university students, but is considering creating similar debate clubs in other settings and with a younger audience.

Lessons Learned

While there were costs associated with this project, Theis did not allow his idea for the Copenhagen Debate Club to be hindered by a lack of financial means. Much of the success of this project was due to the collaborative efforts of friends and volunteers. Theis encourages other young social entrepreneurs to reach out to others for assistance, and to focus on alternative ways of organizing and communicating that are free or involve relatively low costs.


Theis raised about $1,000 for this project, the bulk of which was used to cover the travel costs for an experienced Croatian debate expert and the costs of creating the Copenhagen Debate Club and delivering high-level trainings. Other expenses included designing and printing posters, purchasing small gifts for speakers and purchasing a trophy for the club championships.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2011

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