New and challenging ideas are endangered species these days. They are surrounded by predators from all sides.

There are the entrenched interests that want to maintain the status quo. There are trolls who will beat them down just for laughs. Then there is the threat of cancellation by those who deem challenging ideas unworthy of being expressed at all.  

Yet, as their natural habitat is being invaded, we as a society need these ideas to thrive more than ever before. We must continually challenge our assumptions, for history has shown us how often they end up being false. We must be wary of the status quo, and the powers that work to preserve it for their own benefit (and our detriment). We need to have open and honest conversations, lest our minds – and our ideas – become outdated and stale in a fast-moving world. 

What we need is a sanctuary where new and challenging ideas can be nurtured and kept safe from the predators until they’re strong enough to be released into the wilderness and thrive. We need a space where they can be heard with open ears and challenged by open minds. A space where discourse is steered by good faith and reason rather than tribalism and fury. 

FODI Festival Director, Danielle Harvey, says that is what The Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI, to its fans) is all about this year. “In a litany of entrenched ideas, 24-hour news cycles, shallow information and self-censorship, we desperately need a space where we can engage with challenging ideas in good faith.” 

FODI is a “sanctuary”, not just as a refuge to keep us safe from the noise, the trolls and the bad faith speakers found in the wilderness of public discourse, but a space where we’re safe to engage with powerful and provocative ideas.

A lot is said about “safe spaces” these days. But they’re typically talking about only one type: “safe from…” spaces, where people can be protected from things that might be harmful, triggering, discriminatory or distressing. These spaces are important in a world filled with dangers, because we should always respect the inherent dignity and vulnerability of others, and seek to protect them from harm. 

But if we only have “safe from…” spaces, we risk shutting down difficult conversations that we might have to have. We might stifle precisely the kinds of discourse that could make “safe from…” spaces less necessary. We can end up being coddled rather than becoming resilient or testing our own ideas. 

FODI exemplifies another kind of safe space: “safe to…”. This is a space where people are able to express themselves authentically and in good faith without fear of reprisal, where they can engage with difficult and controversial topics that might even be deemed offensive in other contexts. These are the conversations we have to have if we’re to combat the problems that make “safe from…” spaces necessary.  

“FODI is gives us an opportunity to hear powerful and provocative speakers from around the world talk on important and rousing topics,” says Harvey. It’s also a sanctuary. One where audiences can engage with these ideas in a way that we, unfortunately, can’t in the wild. In our sanctuary you are safe from hype and safe to listen and to ask questions.”  

Such a sanctuary needs to be carefully curated to enable open good faith engagement with dangerous ideas. That’s why this year’s FODI will be special. When you come to FODI, you will enter a sacred space, with a shared understanding of our mutual purpose and a will to create a better world. A space to let curiosity guide you, where good faith reigns, where you’re free from intimidation and shame for what you choose to believe and express, a safe place to think deeply about the world.


The Festival of Dangerous Ideas returns 24-25 August 2024 to Carriageworks, Sydney. Subscribe for program updates at