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Policy briefs

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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  • Policy analysis is not only a key step in designing alternative policy proposals, but also a tool to show gaps and problems in existing policies related to violence against women and girls. See Campaign Planning for more details. An effective way to share the result of the analysis with the campaign target audience is a policy brief.

Policy briefs explain to the campaign targets, i.e. policy makers and institutional actors who implement policies, what the problem is and what they must do to address it.

A policy brief must be…

  • Succinct and focused: State the campaign issue quickly and precisely, and then take the reader straight to the solution you propose. If you need more than one page, make sure the brief starts with an executive summary that does not exceed one page.
  • Legible and attractive: Write in a straightforward style and structure the brief with sub-titles, bullet points and graphs so that the main facts can be grasped at a quick glance. Usually, a policy brief includes the following elements:
  1. Title of the paper
  2. Executive summary
  3.  Context and importance of the problem
  4.  Critique of policy option(s)
  5.  Policy recommendations
  6.  Appendices
  7.  Sources consulted or recommended
*Items 4 and 6 can be omitted if the policy brief is sufficiently compelling without detailing other policy options and providing additional documentation.
  • Tailored to your audience: Different types of readers have different perspectives. If you do not catch the reader’s attention and affinity in the first paragraph, your brief won’t be read. For example, if your aim is to convince the Interior Ministry to train police in appropriate conduct in domestic violence (DV) cases, it seems appropriate to present DV as a security concern and cite the police’s mandate to effectively prevent and punish crime.
  • Evidence-based: quote credible evidence (e.g. data, research reports, personal testimonies) to show that the problem needs to be addressed and that the actions you propose are likely to improve the situation. Make sure the facts you quote are accurate.

Bear in mind:

  • The policy brief is a central document in institutional change campaigns. Prepare it with utmost care and keep copies ready for distribution at all times. Ensure ethical principles are fully observed.
  • Share it with your target audience, your constituency, media workers and anyone who is likely to use it for your cause.

A good example for a concise policy brief has been produced by the Initiative for Inclusive Security to propose legislative measures against gender-based violence in post-conflict settings (Gomez, J., Combating Gender-based Violence: Legislative Strategies).


International Policy Fellowships offers a three-page guide on writing policy briefs (in English).