What’s The Chatham House Rule?


And why do we use it at Shift Forum?

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

The Shift Forum operates under Chatham House Rule, a simple framework developed nearly a century ago by Anglo-American business and political leaders in the tumultuous aftermath of World War I. Chatham House, also known at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent think tank that takes as its mission to “To help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world, through informed debate, independent analysis, new policy ideas, and outreach to audiences.”

Chatham House Rule emerged in parallel with the contentious debate around international monetary policy, and in particular the abandonment of the gold standard and the emergence of modern economic theory. The foundations of our current business climate were framed and debated at Chatham House in the early 1930s by leaders like John Maynard Keynes, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Cecil, Lord Astor, and countless others.

We once again find ourselves at a moment of significant inflection — the core tenets of our political economy are shifting. Rising nationalist and protectionist movements are challenging incumbent neoliberal, globalist philosophies. Ubiquitous technology companies are moving beyond their initial markets to privatize sectors of our economy previously considered in the public domain — identity services, transportation, information access, healthcare, and education. Malicious actors — both state and stateless — leverage those same technology platforms to destabilize democratic institutions and ideals. Cryptocurrencies and the technology underpinning them are challenging fiat currencies and the centralized models of government and business alike. And the world’s largest multinational corporations — Unilever, Walmart, Starbucks, Blackrock — are now calling upon business to create positive social impact beyond simply extracting value for their principle shareholders.

As the world struggled to understand the implications of the “war to end all wars,” Chatham House Rule offered a framework for informed debate that helped ease the transition to a truly global political and economic system. This continued through WWII into the present day. It is in that spirit that Shift Forum has adopted Chatham’s simple and elegant rule. As we bend to the work of establishing a more equitable and open global society, we must recommit ourselves to open and candid dialog between the leaders of business, government, and academia. That’s the shared goal of both Chatham House Rule and the Shift Forum. We look forward to the conversation in one week’s time!

The Shift Forum is now operating under a waitlist for limited slots which may open in coming days. You can join the waitlist here.

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