Demos Staff +

Polly Mackenzie

Chief Executive

Polly is the Chief Executive of Demos.

Polly started her career as a business journalist. In  2004 she became a Policy Adviser on housing and local government for Edward Davey MP. She then worked for Nick Clegg from 2006 to 2015, helping to write the 2010 Coalition Agreement, and serving as Director of Policy to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-15.

After leaving Government, Polly established the operations of the Women’s Equality Party, and then went on to found the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity working to break the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. She lives in South East London, and has three children.


Joanne Ainley

Marketing and Relationships Coordinator

Joanne is a communications professional with experience in journalism, public relations and marketing.

She began her career in print journalism working on local newspapers in South Yorkshire and later moved into the voluntary sector where she raised awareness of support services, secured grant income and engaged with community stakeholders to help shape service provision.

She is currently helping Demos to deliver its Good Credit Project in South Yorkshire to improve people’s access to affordable credit and is keen to address inequalities in our towns, cities and local communities.


Maeve Thompson

Director of External Affairs

Maeve is the Director of External Affairs at Demos, responsible for the organisation’s public profile and communications activities.

Maeve previously worked in senior leadership and communications roles at national charities Grandparents Plus and the Canal & River Trust, as well as in the private sector.

She has a BA in Chinese Studies from the University of Manchester and an MSc in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


Dr Heather Rolfe

Head of Research

Heather is Director of Research at Demos.

She previously  lead Employment and Social Policy Research at NIESR. Her particular areas of interest include migration, inclusion and integration


Harry Carr

Director of Innovation

Harry is Director of Innovation at Demos, developing new research capabilities.

Before joining Demos, Harry was a political pollster at Ipsos MORI, before becoming Head of Sky Data, conducting public opinion research for Sky News.


Alex Krasodomski-Jones

Director, CASM

Alex is director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, leading work on digital political extremism, information environments, disinformation and machine-enabled decision-making.

He manages CASM’s visual analytics capability, and provides written and televised comment for the BBC, CNN, the Spectator, the Huffington Post and other outlets.

Before joining CASM, Alex worked at Accenture Digital in visual analytics.


Heather Williams

Head of Major Projects

Heather is the Head of Major Projects at Demos, leading our work to secure social change by bringing the private, public and third sectors together.

Heather has worked in research, policy and senior leadership roles including for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the LGBT Foundation. She is interested in living standards, participation and equality. She has a degree in English Literature from the University of Warwick, and a post graduate certificate in voluntary sector management.

Heather is a trustee for the charity Partners of Prisoners. She lives in Manchester.


Kitty Ussher

Chief Economist

Kitty is the Chief Economist of Demos.

Kitty was the MP for Burnley from 2005-10, serving as Economic Secretary to the Treasury in the first phase of the financial crisis, and also as a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. Previously she had been a special adviser to Patricia Hewitt at the Department for Trade and Industry, and a Lambeth councillor where she chaired the Finance and Environment Scrutiny Committees.

Since 2010, she has devised and delivered public policy thought leadership projects both as Managing Director of Tooley Street Research and through think-tanks, including as Director of Demos from 2010-11. In 2017 she undertook a two-year sabbatical teaching maths in inner-city secondary schools as part of the inaugural cohort of Lucy Kellaway’s Now Teach programme. She holds an MSc in Economics from Birkbeck College, and an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Balliol College Oxford.


Carl Miller

Research Director, CASM

Carl is the Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos.

He is interested in how social media is changing society, and how researching it can inform important decisions. This includes:

  • Digital politics and digital democracy
  • Cybercrime, and the hacking community
  • Cyber-bullying, hate crime, misogyny and abuse online
  • Information warfare and online disinformation
  • ‘Fake news’, digital and citizen journalism
  • Automated decision-making, Internet governance and digital addiction
  •  Building new methods and technology to study social media data

He researches and writes widely on these issues, including for Wired, New Scientist, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London.

His first book is The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab. An examination of the new centres of power and control in the twenty-first century, it was published by Penguin RandomHouse in August 2018.

Carl’s website is

And he Tweets @carljackmiller


Josh Smith

Senior Researcher, CASM and Chief Technical Officer, Demos

Josh is a a software developer and researcher, with a particular interest in the application of natural language processing to social research. He has worked on a wide range of technologies, from hardware to web design, most recently holding a position at IBM as a Python developer and systems administrator.

He has a BSc in Philosophy and Mathematics from the University of Warwick.


Laurence Cubbon

Chief of Staff & Senior Operations Officer

Laurence is part of Demos’ senior management team, working to ensure that Demos is a high-functioning, efficient and happy place to work. Laurence manages finance and operations whilst providing direct support to individual projects and recruitment initiatives. Laurence supports Demos’ Chief Executive in the delivery of strategic objectives, governance improvements and as a liaison to the board of trustees.

Laurence brings a multisectoral perspective to Demos having worked in the private (QinetiQ plc), public (University of Oxford) and not-for-profit (The Employee Share Ownership Centre) sectors.

He has a BA in Philosophy and Politics, from the University of Southampton, and an MA in International Studies (Distinction) from Oxford Brookes University


Izzy Little

Digital Production and Events Officer

Izzy works in Demos’ External Affairs team on events and all things digital. As well as helping to manage Demos’ established events programme, she is also keenly interested in new opportunities for Demos across digital platforms and innovative event formats.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, she completed her MSc Global Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2018.


Josh Tapper

Communications Officer

Josh is the Communications Officer at Demos.

He works on all things press and media, communicating Demos’ work to a range of audiences – including the public, policy makers and politicians.

Josh is a former civil servant, having previously worked in the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office as Assistant Campaigns Manager.


Sacha Hilhorst

Senior Researcher

Sacha is a Researcher at Demos.

She is interested in social issues around work, personal finance and populism. Prior to joining Demos, she worked as a journalist in Europe. She also conducted research on topics such as education, precarious work and personal debt for various NGOs. Sacha holds an Msc in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics.


Ben Glover

Senior Researcher

Ben is a senior researcher at Demos.

His research interests include housing, welfare reform, social care and local economic growth.Prior to joining Demos, he worked as a policy advisor on the civil service fast stream and in Parliament for an MP.


Asli Atay


Asli is a Researcher at Demos.

Prior to joining Demos, she conducted research on topics such as gender equality, sustainability, and migration at a think tank in Istanbul and worked in an international humanitarian aid organization during the Syrian refugee crisis in Gaziantep, Turkey.

She holds an MPhil degree in Political and Economic Sociology from the University of Cambridge.


Elliot Jones


Elliot is a researcher at Demos. He is interested in how people communicate about long-term risks online and how technology can improve and individualise economic policy. He has previously conducted research on intergenerational fairness and trust between supporters of political party. Elliot holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.


Ellen Judson


Ellen is a researcher at Demos. She is interested in political conceptions of truth, the relation between psychology and politics, and the role that language plays in enabling abuses of state power.

Prior to joining Demos, she worked in campaigns for civilian protection in conflict zones, and in research and policy on mass atrocity prevention.

She recently completed an MA from UCL in Legal and Political Theory and holds a BA from the University of Cambridge in Philosophy.


Rose Lasko-Skinner


Rose is a researcher at Demos, working on a range of projects across the Empowered Citizens, Inclusive Communities, and Shared Prosperity programmes.

Prior to joining Demos, she worked on a range of projects on public service transform at the think tank Reform, specialising in government procurement. Before that, she was a Research Fellow in King’s College London’s Global Health Department, where she worked on mental health and urban planning.

Rose holds a BA in Social Anthropology and Geography from SOAS.


Tessa van Rens


Tessa is a researcher at Demos. She is interested in topics such as the influence of emotion in politics, polarisation and populism. She has a passion for democracy, specifically in relation to technology and the threats and opportunities it presents.

Prior to joining Demos, she worked at a campaign organisation for democratic reform, organised large scale philosophy festivals and did research for various NGO’s and think tanks on topics like discrimination among young people and devolution in the EU.

She holds an MA in Legal and Political Theory from UCL.


David Weir

Technology Director, CASM

Prof David Weir is a Professor of Computer Science and co-director of the Text Analysis Group ( He has been on the editorial board of the Computational Linguistics journal, an area chair for several major natural language processing conferences, and the Principal Investigator on 3 EPSRC, 1 ESRC, 4 InnovateUK, 1 Police Knowledge Fund & 1 NSF project. His recent research includes work on lexical distributional similarity, approaches to the modeling of semantic composition in distributional models of meaning, dependency parsing, and domain adaptation.

Jeremy Reffin

Implementation Director, CASM

Dr Jeremy Reffin is Implementation Director at Demos, responsible for the implementation of new technology to support the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media.
Jeremy is co-director of the Text Analysis Group ( at the University of Sussex. His focus is on applying natural language processing technology to solving real-world problems and in developing a new method of representing language in machines. He was formerly a partner at Apax Partners, the venture capital and private equity firm.

Bibi Nubir

Finance and Administrative Assistant

Bibi is a Finance and Administrative Assistant at Demos and is currently completing her Apprenticeship in (AAT) Accountancy.

She is interested in maths, finance and accounts and enjoys tutoring young people in maths and english. Before joining Demos, Bibi worked for two charities which involved helping young people through education, sports and personal development and preventing them from becoming involved in street violence.


Stanley Phillipson Brown

Research Assistant

Stanley is a Research Assistant at Demos. He is interested in a wide range of subjects: from social media’s impact on our democracy; to the political economy of healthcare in Southern Africa; to media coverage of corporate power; to efforts to combat antisemitism.

Stanley is currently on a 12-month placement for his penultimate year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of York.


Senior Fellow +

Charles Seaford

Senior Fellow

Charles leads the Power and Institutions programme at Demos.

In addition to his work at Demos he is a Co-Investigator at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, an ESRC funded research consortium and a Director of Represent Us, a campaigning group. His book ‘Why Capitalist need Communists: the politics of flourishing’ will be published by Palgrave in March. He was formerly Head of the Centre for Wellbeing at the New Economics Foundation, where he led projects on wellbeing, housing, industrial policy and indicators, an advisor at the UK government Sustainable Development Commission and an organisational change consultant. He co-founded Prospect magazine and has an MBA from London Business School and a BA from Oxford.


Associates and Contributors +

Tom Pollard


Tom has worked in mental health policy for over ten years. Starting out in Parliament as a researcher for an MP who chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health Tom then moved to Mind, where he held a number of roles in Policy and Campaigns, eventually becoming manager of the Social Inclusion and Rights team. During his time at Mind he worked on a range of issues, including debt, access to justice and employment, but had a particular focus on benefits and back-to-work support. Through this work, he was asked by the Department for Work and Pensions to join on secondment to advise on mental health across a range of policy issues.
After 18 months at the DWP, Tom decided to gain some front-line experience and is now training as a Mental Health Social Worker. However, he remains involved in policy discussions around mental health and social security.

Rose Acton


Rose is a researcher and entrepreneur, with a particular interest in the role of technology and how it can be used to solve social problems. She is a co-founder of Adia Health, a tech start-up on a mission to revolutionise women’s reproductive health. She is a recent graduate of the social innovation programme Zinc VC, and has previously held roles at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and the Financial Conduct Authority. Rose holds a BA in History from King’s College London.


Trustees +

Dame Julie Mellor DBE

Chair of Trustees

Julie was appointed Chair of Demos in September 2018.

She is also Chair of the Young Foundation –  putting people at the heart of social change – and the Federation of Industry Sector Skills and Standards. She is a Trustee of Involve, the public participation charity.

Following a career in business with Shell, TSB and British Gas, she became Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1999-2005 and then a partner at PwC. From 2012-2017 Julie was Chair of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. She has served as a non-executive board member at a number of organisations including: Nesta, the national innovation body; the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Commission for Racial Equality.


Tilly McAuliffe


Tilly is the founder of the Think Media Group, which comprises a customer publishing agency Think Publishing, a book publishing company Think Books and the travel media brand, Wanderlust. 20 years old this year, the group has enjoyed consistent independent growth and employs over 100 people in London and Glasgow. Tilly is the recipient of the Individual Achievement Award from the Professional Publishers Association, and Think itself is a three time recipient of the PPA Independent Publishing Company of the Year.

Tilly is also co-owner and non-executive director of Welbeck Publishing Group (formerly Carlton Books).

Outside of work, Tilly is the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Business & Entrepreneurs Network and sits on the Development Board of the National Youth Theatre.  Tilly has two children and two dogs and lives in North West London.


James Wise


James is a partner at Balderton Capital, the largest early stage venture capital firm in Europe, where he invests in new technologies focussed on productivity & healthcare. He sits on the board of 8 companies, spanning sectors from genomics and cybersecurity to sustainable clothing marketplaces.

Prior to joining Balderton, James helped to launch and run one of the UK’s first social venture funds, the Social Business Trust and in 2011 he served as a Specialist Adviser to Parliament on Social Enterprise and Charity. James studied at Oxford University and Manchester Grammar School. In 2019 he was mentioned as amongst the top 100 most influential people in European technology by Business Insider.


Alessandra Buonfino


Alessandra is Head of International Development at the independent law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP where she is responsible for international strategy, partnerships and new business. Alessandra joined the Demos Board of Trustees in January 2018.

Before joining Mishcon in April 2017, Alessandra worked for the British Government. Her most recent role was to set up and grow a new unit at the Department for International Trade and within the GREAT Britain campaign to encourage investment, trade and philanthropy from overseas high net worth families. Her work covered over 20 markets – from India to Brazil – facilitating hundreds of millions of pounds worth of trade and investment in sectors as diverse as healthcare, technology and fashion. Before this role, Alessandra worked in the Cabinet Office, where she was responsible for strategic relations between 10 Downing street and a number of large corporates.

Prior to Government, Alessandra was Head of UK Government affairs at the retailer Tesco and has held a variety of leadership roles in think tanks, including as Programme Leader at the Young Foundation and Head of Research at Demos.

She studied Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Durham and has a MPhil in Development Studies and PhD in International relations from Cambridge University. She was listed in Management Today as one of 50 Power Part Timers in 2017; she is a member of the advisory council of YES BANK’s India Fintech Opportunities Review and a mentor on their YES Fintech accelerator programme for startups.


Ian Corfield


Ian Corfield is currently Chief Commercial Officer New Day, one of the largest issuers of credit cards in the UK. Prior to this Ian was at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he was CEO and a Board Director of its majority owned Aussie Home Loans subsidiary for 6 years, having previously been CEO of the Retail and then Business Bank at Bankwest. Previously, Ian has also worked for HBOS in the UK and Ireland across a range of roles including 3 years as Managing Director of the HBOS Credit Cards and Personal Loans business.

With over 15 years’ experience in financial services across 3 different countries, Ian has extensive expertise in credit risk, product design, and distribution. Ian’s early career included time as a management consultant and political adviser.


Nick Claydon


Nick is the Senior Partner of Brunswick’s London office. He has a wealth of experience in advising international clients across a range of sectors on corporate reputation, financial communications and crisis management.

Nick rejoined Brunswick as a partner in 2001 from British Airways where he was head of communications, responsible for worldwide PR. Nick was previously a political consultant in Westminster, having begun his career as a parliamentary researcher. Nick is a member of the corporate board of the English National Opera and the London development board of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centers.

His clients have included Unilever, Rolls-Royce, Burberry, Thomson Reuters, BP and McKinsey.


Matt Nixon


Matt is Managing Director of Disraeli Group, a leadership and management consultancy working with senior clients in the private and public sectors on issues of organisational health and performance.

Before founding Disraeli Group, Matt worked as an HR executive for Barclays, where he was a Managing Director and Global Head of Talent, and previously for Shell, where he was Group Head of Organisation Effectiveness. In these roles he was involved with a number of high profile crises and reputational challenges, as well as working with the CEOs and senior leadership teams to improve the safety, efficiency and social impact of the businesses globally.

For Barclays, he helped set up and manage the Salz Review into the bank’s business practices in 2012, and co-led the bank’s work to respond to recommendations in talent, reward and performance management. At Shell, he led teams working all over the world on complex projects, as well as with corporate functions including Finance, HR and IT.

Matt’s career began in consulting, initially for Accenture and Metapraxis, and then for Towers Watson where he was a partner in Chicago and London. His consulting experience includes many projects working with government departments and agencies, including the DWP, Legal Services Commission, Ofcom, Railway Safety and the British Museum.

Matt has an MA in Classics from Christ Church, Oxford, where he was an Open Scholar. He is an experienced charity trustee, and a school governor.


Neil Sherlock CBE


Neil Sherlock CBE is a Senior Adviser, PwC and from 2013-18 was a partner in the firm. Neil was a special adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2012-13 covering business issues and political reform. From 1999-2011 he was a partner at KPMG. Outside his professional career Neil has been Chairman of the charity Working Families, a member of Alan Milburn’s Social Mobility Commission and a member of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.

He stood twice for Parliament as a Liberal Democrat in 1992 and 1997, was an adviser to Paddy Ashdown, speechwriter for Charles Kennedy in the 2005 election and adviser to Menzies Campbell. He was one of the team who prepared Nick Clegg for the 2010 TV debates. He jointly edited with Neal Lawson “The Progressive Century: the future of the centre-left in Britain”.

A former President of the Oxford Union Society in 1985, Neil graduated with a First in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Married to Kate (Baroness Parminter) he is the proud father of two daughters and has only twice personally achieved sporting ambitions – winning a golf tournament aged 17 and scoring a cricket half-century at a rather later age.


Advisory Board +