The purpose of this assignment is to provide students with the opportunity to practice writing policy
memos/briefs, which will be a useful skill in their international policy management career.
What is a policy memo/brief?
A policy memo/brief is a short document that outlines an issue or problem and presents
recommendations based on evidence for a non-specialized audience, such as key decision-makers,
NGOs, journalists, etc. It provides policy advice and is meant to be informative and persuasive.
Organization of your policy memo/brief
While in your professional careers policy memos might vary in their organization, below is a common
organizational flow for policy briefs, and one that you must use in these two courses.
• Title: Your title should clearly communicate your topic and may include the position of the
writer on the issue. A good title should grab the attention of the reader. (5 points)
• Introductory Paragraph/Executive Summary: Your memo/brief should include a short
introductory paragraph that summarizes the problem you are addressing in the memo. In
addition, the summary should briefly and clearly state the primary findings and
recommendations of the memo. (10 points)
• Description of the Problem and Reasons for Action: You will provide a brief overview of the
policy that needs to be addressed and why it is important to do something different than
current policy. Basically – what is the problem and why do we need to fix it? In this section,
students should discuss key measures that illustrate the problem and failures of current or past
policies. For example, current literacy levels and trends might be used to demonstrate the lack
of effective current policies. Data and information are important here. You should specifically
analyze the strengths and weakness of existing policy – be sure to include both! Do not just
present your data, but rather discuss the implications or significant findings based on the data.
• Proposed Policy Alternatives: What are some potential alternatives to the current policy based
on your research? Specifically, you should discuss the process through which each proposed
alternative policy might fix the problems with the current policy. You should include a minimum
of two potential policy alternatives. (10 points)
• Analyzing Policy Alternatives and Making a Policy Recommendation: In this section, you will
evaluate and analyze the proposed policy alternatives you discussed in the previous section and
ultimately make a recommendation on the best course of action. You should discuss the
strengths and weaknesses of each policy alternative and clearly state the criteria are you using
to evaluate these options. Weigh the costs and benefits of various options (based on these
criteria), building an argument for the “best” recommendation. You should support your
assertions with relevant data and avoid generalizations. You should also be sure to address
potential counterarguments and rebuttals to your findings and ultimate recommendation. The
key object of this section is to ultimately create a compelling argument for the option that you
have chosen as a recommendation from the presented alternatives. (25 points)
• Implementing Policy Recommendation: Clearly state how your policy recommendations should
be implemented and a timeframe for implementation. Be sure to provide specific and detailed
steps that need to be followed for the implementation of this policy; this requires you to
consider the key actors (agencies, leaders, executives, etc.) involved in the implementation.
Further, you should discuss the potential (intended or unintended) impact, both positive and
negative, of these recommendations on key constituents. (20 points)
• Conclusion: Provide a succinct and clear conclusion. Remind the reader of the “big picture” and
overall goal of your policy recommendations – answering the “so what?” question. In other
words, why is your proposed alternative better than the current policy and status quo? Why is it
important to make this change and why is the proposed timeframe appropriate and necessary?
Format of your policy memo/brief
While the length of policy memos/briefs may vary, since you are still acquiring the ability to write
succinctly, for the purpose of these classes your policy memos should be 2-3 pages in length (single
spaced). In addition, policy memos should be written with the reader in mind. They should be easy to
read and it should be easy to find important information. You may consider bold or italicized fonts,
clearly defined subsections, and/or bullets and lists to help the reader quickly and easily find key
Additional Grading Information
This is a formal writing assignment and you are expected to write clearly and for a professional
audience. such, clarity and organization of writing, use of appropriate grammar, spelling, and
appropriate word choice and usage will be considered when grading your memos. Memos with such
mistakes may be penalized up to 10 points, depending on the severity of the problems.