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The digital revolution at Chatham House - from fight to full flight

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Head of Digital Strategy and Development
Chatham House
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Drupal Director
CTI Digital
Experience level
45 minutes
2.07 aurum
Starts at
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Driving digital transformation and explaining its value within a traditional, inward-looking organisation presents an enormous challenge. A key part of this is to connect the value of digital to the overall strategy of the organisation, in order to leverage support for change.

Chatham House (https://www.chathamhouse.org/), also known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, works with ambassadors, policy makers and world leaders, to advise on political and civil issues of global significance. Their mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world, through informed debate, independent analysis and new policy ideas. The way in which we achieve our goals has, and is still is, being revolutionised by digital.

I’ve worked at Chatham House for 14 years and have been fighting the battle for digital transformation for the majority of that time. With our centenary approaching, I’ve been looking back at our digital successes and the road we took to reach this point. The new systems and processes in place will be used to springboard further change, as we plan to build on the success of our Drupal platform. Ultimately, digitisation is enabling Chatham House to reach a far wider audience internationally, amplifying our message beyond the policy makers, to the powerful public.

In this session I’ll reveal the digital journey as an organisation we’ve taken, but naturally, Chatham House (https://www.chathamhouse.org/chatham-house-rule) rules will apply:

  • Why digital change was so important at Chatham House
  • How to be more persuasive towards colleagues and key stakeholders so even skeptics embrace change
  • How to identify necessary structural changes
  • How to build a robust business case to secure financial and human resources to drive change
  • What our digital transformation actually looked like
  • The ongoing roadmap, and what’s still to come
  • Q&A

In this talk I’ll be discussing how we’ve used technology to transform Chatham House from an internal-centred business to a customer-focused powerhouse.

The Journey:

Chatham House was founded in the aftermath of the First World War, to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. 98 years later, we still use offline methods to connect with our target market of top-level decision makers and policy shapers, but the ways in which we influence them has radically changed thanks to digital. Importantly, our audience has evolved and broadened massively: individuals looking to educate themselves, tired of fake news, are reaching out to discover the truth.

Previously our research work was published in print and PDF, with very little recognition or understanding of amplification. I was a team of one, tasked with uploading PDF files to a Dreamweaver website, sending emails to our small lists, recording and editing audio from events and basically reflecting our entire internal structure online, These days, our core digital team is 12-strong and we have digitally-skilled representatives spread across the House in nearly every team. In order to get where we are today, I have had to translate the value of digitisation, in order to convince my colleagues and to win the budget and support required.

Throughout Chatham’s transformation, we have worked with digital agencies to guide us through strategy sessions, and consultants for email training and system reviews. I’ve worked with IT agencies for PEN testing and security reviews and also with expert consultants tasked with validating my conclusions. To date, our digital success can be seen on our Drupal 8 platform, capable of doing justice to our high-quality, authoritative, and sometimes overwhelming amount of outputs.

The Results:

Internal Processes

Where the Chatham website was previously left stagnant, creating barriers for our work, we have rebuilt and realigned our processes to benefit hugely from the Drupal platform. Approaching a digital transformation meant we had to reconsider the modern day users of the website, catering to the public as well as ambassadors and policy makers. We had to ensure our outputs would remain relevant to old and new user groups as focuses changed.


The content we produce is of the highest academic standard; we conduct and record independently measured analysis in a way that feeds into essential decision making processes. But the journey from offline to online was not strictly linear. We originally digitised our outputs on to Dreamweaver, and since migrating to Drupal we have continuously grown in the practice. The digital transformation has allowed us to digitise documentation in a way that makes it smarter and faster, working more efficiently for everyone.

Ongoing journey

From a one-woman team, completing fairly unassuming digital tasks, uploading and editing research outcomes, to a thriving team maintaining a Drupal 8 platform, Chatham House has come a long way already. However, we recognise that there are still plenty of opportunities and tasks that lie ahead. Whilst we are achieving certain goals, others still require some work; but the tide has certainly turned in the right direction.

We are actively involved in continuous transformation: we are currently working with Hart Square, to review our database and CRM, and Bunnyfoot to develop our persona targeting and UX. In our latest venture, CTI Digital will help us further with our accessibility and expansion in the digital sphere.

The Chatham Brand

Digital now plays a role in driving the mission of the organisation and amplifies our message around the world. Drupal has given us the tools to define and promote a united voice and become a guiding force and one of the world’s leading policy institutes.

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