Identify the specific policy need, the main audience and clarify the problem
What stage of the policy process are you trying to influence?
One of the key barriers for policy makers to consider research in their decision making is that research outputs are not aligned with the policy-making process.
You need to identify the point in the policy process that you are trying to influence and consider the specific timeline during which key decisions will be made. As policy makers often have many competing priorities, make sure the purpose of your policy brief is clear and that it addresses a specific issue that they are currently facing. This requires regular engagement with policy makers to find out about the decisions they are making and their timelines, and then producing analysis to meet their needs.
What decision am I trying to influence? When will decisions be made? When is evidence most likely to be used in this process?
Now you know what policy decision you are trying to influence and the timeline for action, can you clearly define the problem you are trying to address and identify who you are trying to influence?
Being clear about the problem your analysis is addressing and knowing its intended audience saves the reader precious time. Policy makers need to quickly understand the challenge or problem. Framing problems in terms of practical considerations, such as the costs of action or inaction, can be effective.
Think about how you are describing the problem – can you summarise what the problem is in two sentences? What are the costs of inaction? What are the consequences of action?
Different people will have different data needs. Are you trying to reach a generalist working at the national level? Or someone with specialist technical knowledge who will want more detail? Will this person be interested in sub-national data, for example, about their region or constituency? Make sure the evidence you include speaks to the interests of your audience.