Our History

We are a global team of data analysts, researchers, innovators, policy experts, practitioners and activists.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue was co-founded in 2006 by the late publisher Lord George Weidenfeld and our CEO Sasha Havlicek. Originally operated as the Trialogue Educational Trust, ISD was founded to encourage greater interaction and exchange between cultural institutions, academics, business leaders and the media in post-soviet Europe.

This work grew out of the Club of Three, established by Lord Weidenfeld in 1996 alongside a small group of friends including the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl. The Club of Three was designed to promote unofficial exchanges between decision-makers and opinion-formers in Britain, France and Germany. The annual plenary meetings proved so successful that the club began to organise special sessions on issues such as defence, intelligence and demography. From this work, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue was born, with a mission to forge real-world, evidence-based responses to the challenges of integration, extremism and polarisation.

Over the last 15 years, the changing global environment has steered the organisation toward a stronger focus on countering the threat of extremism, polarisation and disinformation. In this time, ISD has spearheaded approaches to counter-extremism and disinformation which have since become mainstream practice or shifted the agenda at a sector level.

ISD was among the first to recognise the central role that cities and local authorities should play in community resilience, launching the Strong Cities Network at the United Nations in 2015. We led the charge in shining a spotlight on the importance of tech company responses to extremism, developing the first counter-narrative efforts online, and have continually reimagined approaches for civic participation and public outreach.

Key highlights since ISD’s formation include:

  • 2006: Sasha Havlicek speaks at the Conference of Western Balkan States alongside Chancellor Merkel
  • 2007: The Policy Planners Network (PPN) established, the first intergovernmental network of Western counter extremism policy chiefs
  • 2007: ISD hosts the inaugural m100 Conference in Potsdam, Germany
  • 2008: Inaugural convening of CEDAR, the pan-European network of Muslim professionals, in Salzburg, Austria
  • 2009: Inaugural European Muslim Women of Influence awards held in Madrid, Spain
  • 2010: ISD launches the Phoenix Initiative, an inter-community initiative searching for a new centre ground
  • 2011: The Impact of Social Media on Intolerance report is published
  • 2012: The Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network, the world’s first network of former extremists and survivors of extremism, is founded
  • 2013: The FREE Initiative (The Far-Right Extremism in Europe Initiative) is launched
  • 2013: ISD releases Review of Programs to Counter Narratives of Violent Extremism, one of the earliest studies of counter-narrative efficacy
  • 2014: Sasha Havlicek speaks at the Conference of Western Balkan States alongside Chancellor Merkel and ISD completes its first pilot study on the impact of counter-narratives
  • 2015: ISD launches Extreme Dialogue, the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN), the Women and Extremism (WaE) initiative, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) at an event held at UNGA
  • 2015: ISD works with the Obama administration to help organise the first Countering Violent Extremism Summit
  • 2016: ISD launches the Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI) in partnership with Facebook, in Berlin
  • 2017: ISD launches the digital citizenship initiative Be Internet Citizens with Google in the UK
  • 2017: ISD launches the Innovation Fund, a £1m UK civil society funding partnership with Google.org
  • 2018: ISD publishes significant research into malign interference and disinformation campaigns in Swedish, Italian and German elections.
  • 2019: ISD launches the Google Impact Challenge on Safety, a €10m fund for European civil society organisations
  • 2019: ISD establishes its Digital Analysis Unit, with real-time capability to identify and analyse malign online communications.

Launch of the European Muslim Women of Influence Awards, 2010

Sasha Havlicek meeting President Barack Obama, 2015

Launch of the Strong Cities Network at the United Nations, 2015

Launch of the Online Civil Courage Initiative in Berlin, 2016

Launch of the Google Impact Challenge on Safety in Munich, 2019

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