Policy Brief Experiment

Can a policy brief be an effective tool for policy influence?

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? and Does it matter if the commentary is assigned to a well known name in the field?

Download summary of study findings (254.2 KB)

Read final report of the study (880.1 KB)

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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