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Policy Brief Basics: What is a policy memo or brief?

What is a policy brief / memo?

What is a policy memo or policy brief? The policy memo and policy brief are documents that outline the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of action in a current policy debate. A policy memo is typically shorter - often less than 10 pages long and sometimes as short as a single page. A policy brief might be longer - sometimes over 50 pages. The intended audience for the memo or brief is informed, non-experts, i.e. people who work regularly on the issue addressed in the document, but who do not do research or read expert texts. Examples of such people are decision makers, politicians, NGO workers, and journalists. Policy briefs are commonly produced in response to a request from a decision-maker. Alternatively, they may be produced by an organization that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. The purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action. It serves as an impetus for action.

What types of policy briefs are there? Depending on the role of the writer or organization producing the document, they may produce one of two types of brief:

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