Developing a policy brief for your report or study

In our current world of information overload and short attention spans, a policy brief is a handy tool to disseminate, create awareness or arouse interest in your report or study and the recommendations therein. Basically, it is a summary of a report or study highlighting the salient points therein, more so, the findings and recommendations. As a medium distilling the lessons learned from the particular study or report, it is an invaluable vehicle for delivering policy advice to the relevant stakeholders and policymakers.

So, how is one to develop a policy brief?  Before delving into developing one, it is good to bear in mind a few things. That a policy brief, as a standalone document, focuses on a single topic and that it is succinct. In matters brevity, it can be 2-4 pages, with 8 pages if stretched in case the issue at hand is overly complex. Anything beyond that and it loses focus.

The second thing to bear in mind is the target audience or audiences. Who are your target audience or audiences? How conversant are they with the issue at hand? What are their concerns and interests pertaining to the issue at hand? How receptive are they to your recommendations in light of this- keeping in mind that some of your recommendation may be radical and may adversely affect their interests? This allows you to have a more focused message and which is attuned to their needs, more or less.

Once your target audience is identified, you are ready to draft the policy brief. As we have stated above, it is a distillation of your study or report – lessons learnt, recommendations and conclusion.  And in winning them over to your side such that they can act accordingly, you have to be persuasive. This calls for creating a sense of urgency in why they should adopt your recommendations. To achieve this, outline some of the accruing benefits should they adopt your recommendations.

We now come to the actual policy brief. As a standalone document, it has the hallmarks of one. This includes an executive summary, introduction, methodologies employed and their results, conclusion and recommendations.

The executive summary is a brief statement that condenses the report or study into a single bite, so to speak. It outlines the basics of the report or study while encouraging the reader to delve further into the policy brief and, eventually, into the study or report. Normally, it appears on the cover or on the first page of the policy brief.

The introduction delves into the objectives of the report or study. Why the report? It entails an overview of the findings and conclusion as well as invoking a sense of urgency on the reader pertaining to the issue at hand.

The methodologies employed and the results provide context on the issue at hand. They summarise the facts, research and analysis, and benefits and opportunities. All these without being overly technical in relation to the target audience.

The conclusion forecasts possible outcomes depending on how the issue is addressed or not. In short, what could happen. On the other hand, the recommendations give a solid way forward on what should happen. It is a call-to-action for a particular stance to be taken with accompanying endeavours on the part of the stakeholders.

Of note is that the policy brief should be designed in the manner of the actual report or study. Why? Think of it as a supplement or extension of the report or study – a ‘lite’ version, if you will.