How to Write a Policy Brief

  • Knowledge Mobilization

How to Write a Policy Brief

A well-written policy brief is an effective tool to encourage decision makers to take up new knowledge. Governments set the direction and fund services, so writing good policy briefs will help get the attention of both public servants and elected officials.

View this step-by-step video tutorial to learn how to write your own policy brief to give government and other decision makers the necessary information and confidence to adopt new approaches.


Stephen Gaetz, President and CEO, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
David French, Managing Director, A Way Home Canada

Part 1: What is a Policy Brief?

A policy brief is an important tool for research impact. Policy briefs are used to shape opinions and influence decision makers. With complex issues like homelessness, real change happens slowly, but a policy brief can help inform government and other decision makers to shift thinking and take action.


Part 2. How Policy Briefs boost research impact

Policy briefs are a tool to shape policy and increase impact. One way that policy briefs help set the direction is by giving governments and communities confidence to adopt new approaches.


Part 3. Understand the Policy Cycle

A Policy Brief supports the work of governments at different phases in the policy cycle.


Part 4. Focus Attention and Connect the Dots

The way you write the policy brief can improve your chances of getting the attention of government. Focus on presenting solutions. As a partner on the ground, you are a trusted source of knowledge. Align your messages to government priorities.


Part 5. Tell a Story

Give thought to how you tell the story. A well-designed policy brief takes the reader on a journey. Begin with a broad idea: what is the issue and why is it so bad? Then, shift to provide solutions to the problem. You task is to provide hope that the solution will yield better outcomes and provide a concrete path forward based on evidence.


Part 6. Writing Recommendations

Writing good recommendations is a skill that takes practice. To be effective, recommendations should be targeted, specific and concrete. It’s important to direct them to the groups who are responsible for taking action.


Part 7. Time the Release

Let government know ahead of time that you are planning to release a policy brief. Sharing the policy brief in advance with your audience gives them a chance to respond to your recommendations.


Part 8. Q&A

When Government, research partners and organizations work together to develop policy, good ideas don’t get lost in the silos of government.


Webinar recorded: January 2021