Policy briefs are the connecting link between researchers and policy actors. These briefs enable researchers to showcase their work and findings with the aim of changing current policies. Also, they increase awareness on current policy issues and the chance of securing future grant funding. So, to help write your policy brief here are a few tips!
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) offers example policy briefs. They also provide a detailed structure outline, as well as templates if you are needing the extra hand.
- Planning Before You Begin
Before putting pen to paper, you need to decide who your target audience is. This will help to decide the format and writing style for the brief. For example, if you are aiming it at a specialist you should use relevant jargon, but if it is not then avoid overly technical terms.
- Catch Their Attention Quickly
As you can imagine policy actors receive multiple policy briefs daily, so you want yours to stand out. By using a masthead that is bold, it will catch the reader’s attention. Another way is to include an executive summary at the beginning that sums up the entire brief. This will encourage the reader to continue with the full document
- Tell Them What to Do!
As policy briefs are used to encourage change so it is important that you use action words throughout. This is especially important within the recommendation section of your brief. Above all, the brief should provide clear and practical actions that can be taken after reading the submission.
- Formatting & Design
The brief should be easy for your reader to digest. This can be done by using short paragraphs with supplementing subheadings throughout. Another handy tool is to use bold or italic formatting for the important points throughout. As a result it will make it easier for the reader to follow the bouncing ball straight to your practical recommendations.
Now that you have written the policy brief, it is time to distribute it. There are a range of ways that this can be done including by a hard copy, email or social media. In fact, social media is a great way to increase engagement levels. By sharing a PDF link of your brief, it can lead to others re-sharing and engaging with the content through commenting. It also has an additional bonus of developing your online profile brand as a valued expert.
- What Now?
Once the brief has been shred, it does not stop there. This is the peak opportunity to begin to build relationships with policy actors. Specifically, after submission you should follow up with the relevant people via email or call. During this reconnection, invite the person to an event or seminar if there is one available! This will help the person to become more engaged with your topic.
- How to make a policy brief that has real impact (12 min read, blog post)
- How To plan, write and communicate an effective Policy Brief (20 min read, PDF)
- How to write a policy brief (10 min read, interactive webpage)