Policy Briefs: a development research communication tool


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Policy briefs as communication tools for policy research.
Presentation by Arnaldo Pellini and Jeff Knezovich
August 2008, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

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Policy Briefs: a development research communication tool

  1. 1. Policy Briefs: a development research communication tool Arnaldo Pellini, PhD ‘Micro-level Perspectives of Growth’ project August 2008, Dar es Salaam
  2. 2. Content 1) Why policy briefs? 2) Planning your policy brief 3) Designing your policy brief 4) Conclusion
  3. 3. Part 1: Why a policy brief? The research/policy divide • Divergent needs & pressures regarding information usage Factors influencing policy making • Specialised research expertise vs. democratised knowledge Experience & Expertise • Policy engagement vs. objectivity of Pragmatics & Judgement Contingencies researchers • Researchers’ hypothesis driven Evidence Lobbyists & Resources processes vs. policy-makers time Pressure Groups constraints Habits, Policy • Multiple and competing influences Context Values & Tradition Source: Phil Davies Impact to upon policy decisions Insight Meeting, ODI, 2005 Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  4. 4. Part 1: Why a policy brief? • A short document that presents the findings and recommendations of a research project to a non-specialist readership • A medium for exploring an issue and distilling lessons learned from research • A vehicle for providing policy advice Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  5. 5. Part 1: Why a policy brief? • Recent ODI/ Sci-DevNet survey with developed and developing country policy makers working in field of Science, Technology and Innovation found: – 50% of policy-makers and 65% of researchers thought dissemination of research findings for policy uptake insufficient – 79% respondents ranked policy briefs as valuable communications tool – Confirmed by expert and stakeholder interviews as means of informing decision-making processes Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  6. 6. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  7. 7. Part 2: Planning your policy brief A policy brief should be: • A stand alone document • Focused on a single topic • Approximately 1,500 words (2-4 pages) • A mix of text and graphics/ illustrations • Provides suggestions for follow up reading Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  8. 8. Part 2: Planning your policy brief • Evidence  Quality evidence  Credible messenger • Context  Understanding of political context • Engagement (links)  Fostering linkages between researchers & policy- makers  Ongoing dialogue Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  9. 9. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Evidence • “What value does this have for the reader?” • Develop a persuasive argument line:  Clear purpose  Cohesive argument  Quality of evidence  Transparency of evidence underpinning policy recommendations • Describe the urgency of the situation • Speak in terms of benefits, advantages Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  10. 10. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Ask yourself… • Who are your readers? • Who am I writing this brief for? • How knowledgeable are they about the subject? • How open are they to the message? • What are their interests & concerns? Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  11. 11. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Context • Policy makers are not a homogenous group • Needs differ by sector (economic vs social) • Level of position (national vs sub-national) • Role in policy-making process (policymaker, researcher, intermediary) • Point in the policy/project cycle (agenda setting vs implementation vs M&E) Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  12. 12. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Context Policy-makers using scientific information at various stages of the policy cycle Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  13. 13. Part 2: Planning your policy brief Engagement “I often read policy briefs for • Recommendations relevant & both my official and non official needs. I cannot think realistic in context of going forward without consulting policy briefs. It • Results clear expands my knowledge as I • Time pressures of policy- get an opportunity to understand what is makers to deliver policies happening around me.” with rapid & visible impacts (Policy-maker, India) Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  14. 14. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  15. 15. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Present evidence- informed opinions • Not shying away from opinion and value judgements (vs. objectivity) • 80% policy-makers valued researchers’ opinions about the policy implications of research • Demand for opinion highest in South Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  16. 16. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Use clear language • Define your purpose • Identify salient supporting points • Distill the points down to essential info • Clear language & jargon free 64% respondents thought low levels of scientific understanding by policy makers is a significant obstacle to uptake Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  17. 17. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Structure: • Executive statement • Introduction • Methodology • Results: what did we learn? • Conclusions: what does it mean? • Implications and Recommendations Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  18. 18. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Executive statement: Many in Congress and the administration have called for new • Distill the essence of the brief investments in education in order to make the United States more • Provide an overview to busy competitive, with President Bush readers stressing the importance of education in preparing young • Interest the reader to read further Americans to “fill the jobs of the • Appear on the cover, or top of the 21st century.” Yet advocates of early childhood education have first page only recently stressed the • Be written last so that author is economic benefits of preschool programs, and it has been difficult to win support for clear about the over-arching these short-term investments given the message conveyed long-term nature of the benefits to the Economy. The Brookings Institution, Policy Brief N. 153: http://www.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb153.pdf Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  19. 19. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Introduction: The increased fear of a pandemic at • Answers the question why is the current time is due to the fact that the H5N1 strain causing the outbreak is capable of this important or urgent? mutating rapidly and acquiring genes from • Describes the research viruses infecting other animal species, including humans. If the new virus contained sufficient objective human influenza virus genes, direct transmission from one person to another • Acts as an overview of the (human-to-human) could occur, heralding a findings and conclusions possible influenza pandemic. The current H5N1 strain causes high mortality among humans, • Creates curiosity about the with mortality rates exceeding 50 per cent in most countries. rest of the brief AN EFFECTIVE REGIONAL RESPONSE TO THE THREAT OF A PANDEMIC UN ESCAP Issue N.1 2005 Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  20. 20. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Methodology: • Describes relevant background • Describes issue and context of the investigation • Describes research and analysis activities o What methods were used to conduct the study? o Who undertook the data collection and analysis? o Important to provide transparency of research process but should not be overly technical • Opportunity to highlight strengths/ value-added of study Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  21. 21. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Do The Electric Fences Work? Results: What did we learn? • Provide a summary of the facts Overall, it was found that although the electric fencing does help…it is • Make content easy to follow, not capable of completely understand eliminating conflict. In each …area…technical as well as • Start by painting a general socioeconomic factors picture affect…success. Technical failures • Move from general to specific mainly affected the early fences…Other problems resulted • Base conclusions on results from failure to take into account • Express ideas using strong elephant behavior and distribution patterns. assertions Elephants and Electric Fences: A Study From Sri • Make sure ideas are balanced, Lanka. EEPSEA 2005-PB11 defensible Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  22. 22. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Implications and recommendations • Implications - what • Recommendations – policy changes or actions what does the researcher do the results point to? think should happen? • Supported by evidence • Supported by evidence • Must be actionable • Must be actionable • Less direct than • Describe clearly what recommendations should happen next • Useful when advice not • State as precise steps requested or not welcome Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  23. 23. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Engage with audiences visually • Visually as well as conceptually engaging • Would you be interested by the document? • Often just 30-60 minutes spent by policy makers reading information on an issue • Over 80% respondents found graphs & explanatory diagrams helpful Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  24. 24. Part 3: Designing your policy brief • Sidebar or textbox – a short insert that examines a specific aspect of the research • Additional to the main discussion • Aim to ‘hook’ a reader’s attention, often through additional qualitative information or case studies • Aim to make sidebars or textboxes: – Short, Descriptive – Stimulating (ask questions, provide answers Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  25. 25. Part 4: Conclusions Key ingredients of effective policy briefs Persuasive Argument Clear purpose; cohesive argument; quality of evidence; Evidence transparency of evidence underpinning policy recommendations (e.g. a single study, a review of available evidence, etc.) Authority Messenger (individual or organisation) has credibility in eyes of policy-maker Audience context Written to address specific context and needs of target Policy specificity audience; context Actionable Information linked to specific policy processes, clear and Recommendations feasible recommendations on policy steps to be taken Presentation of author’s own views about policy implications Presentation of Engagement evidence-informed of research findings; but clear identification of argument opinions components that are opinion based Understandable by educated, non-specialist Clear Language/ Writing Style Appearance/Design Visually engaging, presentation of information through charts, graphs, photos Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  26. 26. Thank you  a.pellini@odi.org.uk
  27. 27. Group work: Session 1 Read the 2 pg policy brief entitled: “Challenges for Sustainable Development in the Mekong Delta” Use the checklist and score the brief out of 5 (0 is for very poor, 5 for excellent) on each category. Be sure to note your reasons for your scores
  28. 28. Group work: Session 2 Form 4 groups: • i) Trade liberalisation and employment, • 2) Private sector competitiveness, • 3) Value chain analysis, • 4) Migration and off-farm employment Based on the presentations from the Sapa workshop identify: – Your audience? – Your value-added findings in 3 key points, 15 words each – 4 key policy implications stemming from your findings – 2 key policy recommendations to • National government bureaucrats; • Provincial government bureaucrats; • Committee on Economic Affairs in the National Assembly; • Donors; • NGOs – A topic and text for a textbox or sidebar
  29. 29. RAPID Framework External Influences political context Politics and Campaigning, Policymaking Policy analysis, & Lobbying research Media, Advocacy, Networking Research, Scientific learning & information thinking exchange & validation evidence links
  30. 30. Part 3: Designing your policy brief Results: What does it mean? • Use this section to interpret your data One problem is the destruction of • Aim for concrete conclusions fences by illegal timber fellers and • Express ideas using strong illicit liquor producers. Such assertions activities can be policed by well- • Make sure ideas are balanced, organized community-based groups. defensible Elephants and Electric Fences: A Study From Sri Lanka EEPSEA 2005-PB11 Why? Planning Design Conclusions
  31. 31. Group Planning Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 25 Aug 1 Sept 8 Sept 15 Sept 22 Sept 29 Sept 6 Oct Other commit ments Research Research paper papers sent (26 Sept) Policy paper