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Case Study

Model Diplomacy

Improving Understanding of International Relations

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Project Highlights

Implementation of headless Drupal that resulted in an improved workflow for both editors and site users.

  • Improved web design for public and admin site
  • Improved editorial workflow
  • Implementation of headless Drupal
  • Implementation of advanced tracking for user flow analysis via Omniture

Our Part

  • Content Modeling
  • Drupal Development
  • Web Design
  • REST API Implementation
  • Training

What better way to teach students about foreign policy is there than compiling a library of hypothetical situations that influences them to think like a diplomat?

Model Diplomacy is an educational program created by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) designed to simulate the challenges involved in shaping U.S. foreign policy. The program provides teachers and students with educational material including course guides, authoritative multimedia content, supplemental research materials, and assessment exercises packaged into real-world case studies on different foreign policy issues. The program is used globally and in a variety of classroom settings.

“CFR is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Founded in 1921, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.” - source:

Model Diplomacy is able to put real content that has been developed by CFR experts into the hands of students, but before that can happen, that content must pass through the hands of a large number of editors. When CFR began working with Palantir, the Model Diplomacy site had already launched, however the editorial CMS was inefficient. Although they had no shortage of writers and content being created, it sometimes took up to a week to add, edit and publish a single case study.

So how do we make things easier for your editors? For Model Diplomacy, the urgent need was to streamline the editorial workflow, while improving the performance that was being delivered using AngularJS. Palantir re-platformed the site onto a more robust CMS, which in this case was a headless instance of Drupal 7. A headless instance allows Drupal to be used as a back-end for content editing while serving its content to the front-end application that is responsible for the look and feel of the site. Because of Drupal’s easy workflow, Model Diplomacy editors can now create content faster and maintain content easier.

Previous to Model Diplomacy, Palantir and CFR had partnered together on the Foreign Affairs redesign. At Palantir, the relationships we build with our clients define our success, and the trust that was built while working on the Foreign Affairs site assured CFR that Palantir would be able to make Model Diplomacy a success as well. In fact, the strategic planning and collaborative problem-solving displayed during phase one of the project gave CFR that extra boost of confidence to invite Palantir to be their partner when it was time for phase two.

As Model Diplomacy gained momentum and more stakeholders became involved in the project, it was time to rebrand and redesign the site. Palantir had three main goals for this phase of the project:

  • Implement a responsive design that reflected the new Model Diplomacy brand.
  • Introduce new functionality to streamline workflows even further.
  • Implement advanced tracking analytics.

As the power users of the site, it was crucial to improve the administrative experience for instructors. One of the new features implemented during phase two was a dashboard for teachers to track their students’ progress. This dashboard introduced various new email capabilities, for instance, integrating with Mandrill from MailChimp to create triggers and send subsequent notifications to instructors and students based on content and editor publishes.

In addition to the redefined instructor communication workflow, Omniture was implemented to allow for user flow analysis. Actions and buttons on the redesigned site were instrumented as tags, which allows site administrators to see how students and teachers moved through tasks while using the site.

The overall victory for this project was the improved workflow for students, teachers, and content editors alike. We set out to help our client distribute and provide information easier, and on top of that, we were able to complete the project ahead of deadline, even including some last minute feature additions.

We frequently work with clients who have an immediate need, and Model Diplomacy was no exception. We were able to step in where they needed us, and then do what we do best — form a collaborative partnership that lays the groundwork for long term success of a project.

Let’s work together.

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