What difference does a policy brief make?

What difference does a policy brief make?

3ie and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), in collaboration with Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), explored the effectiveness of a policy brief for influencing readers’ beliefs and prompting them to act.

A multi-armed randomised control design was used to find answers to three research questions:

  • do policy briefs influence readers?
  • does the presence of an op-ed type commentary within the brief lead to more or less influence?
  • does it matter if the commentary is assigned to a well known name in the field?

Key findings:

  • a policy brief is more effective in creating ‘evidence-accurate’ beliefs amongst those with no prior opinion
  • messengers matter when it comes to readers’ intended actions
  • gender and self-perceived levels of influence affect people’s intention to act after reading the policy brief

Implications for policy communication:

  • ensure policy briefs have clear key messages
  • include opinion and authority features as they may help to ensure briefs are shared and passed on
  • consider whether a policy brief’s design or format is less appealing to women and/or makes them less inclined to take action
  • target the ‘movers and shakers’
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