With the support of the Representation Program (ProRep)-USAID, WRI has engaged in policy analysis since 2011. The policy analysis is expected to result in a democractic government. The objective of policy analyses is not only to produce quality recommendations and analyses, but also to communicate the research findings well. For instance, in producing a good policy paper or policy brief, there are several aspects that need to be considered, such as focus, relevance, professionalism, public orientation, based on data, easily understood language, and specific recommendations. The drafting of policy papers or policy briefs is expected to be more pertinent in future.
Participants of the training consisted of ProRep’s partnering think tanks and civil society organizations (CSOs), i.e. LPEM Faculty of Economics University of Indonesia; Paramadina Public Policy Institute (PPPI); Women Research Institute (WRI), Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS); Institute for Research & Empowerment (IRE); DEMOS; The Habibie Centre; The Indonesia Institute; Regional Autonomy Watch Committee (KPPOD); Perkumpulan Prakarsa (The Prakarsa); Association for Women in Small Business Assistance (ASSPUK); Indonesia Parliamentary Centre (IPC); Indonesia Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) and AKSARA Association (Yogyakarta). WRI was represented by its two researchers, Frisca Anindita and Benita Nastami.
The objective of this training is to enhance the quality of research products, such as Policy Paper and Policy Brief. It is expected to enable think tanks and CSOs to build a better communication in disseminating its findings to policy- and decision-makers.
Discussion Process and Training
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Session 1: “Differentiating Effective and Poor Policy Research Papers
Policy Paper is a research piece on a specific policy. The difference between a scientific paper and a policy paper lies in the issue of focus. The latter focuses on policy issues and provides policy recommendations.
The drafting of policy papers is meant to bridge the gap or disparity between researchers and policy makers. The policy paper functions as an aid tool in making policies and public decisions. The criteria of a good policy paper are as follows:
- Focuses on a single policy issue
- Explains the relevance of the policy to the content of discussion
- Professional and orientates on public policy
- Uses clear and solid arguments, based on credible data and research
- Uses simple language
- Provides a specific policy recommendation
Exercise 1: Policy Paper Clinic
Every participant of the training was required to bring a document or policy research published by his/her respective institutions. Participants were asked to re-write those documents into more effective and understandable policy documents for policy-makers.
In this session, participants of the workshop were encouraged to provide peer evaluation for the policy papers of other participants.
The drafting of policy papers should incorporate several points, such as:
- An attention-grabbing “hook” or opening statement. The hook is essential as it determines whether or not the policy paper will be fully read.
- Data which are strictly relevant and support the analyzed issue.
- Arguments and recommendations which are compatible with the data and analysis.
- Relevant "smart art" (e.g. photos, graphics, tables, etc) which aids the readers in understanding the study.
- An awareness in the choice of words and style of writing, as they demonstrate our stance and position. In addition, emphases in the usage of language can exhibit a persuasive effect.
Session 2: Developing the Frame of Writing Policy Research Paper
Prior to drafting a policy paper, it is essential to make an outline. Several points that can assist the drafting of a policy paper include:
- Decide a focus of the policy issue that will be discussed
- Determine the audience who will be the target readers, and underscore the importance and urgency of the policy paper for the audience
- Map the extent of the audience’s knowledge on the issue of discussion
- Conduct a preliminary study of previous policy papers or policies
- Map the difference between existing policy papers and the policy paper which are currently being drafted.
Policy papers are drafted in response to current pressing issues, targeting the audience of both policy-makers and the public. There are several types in regards to policy studies, such as policy paper, policy brief, policy review, fact sheet, and executive summary, with no significant differences between each other. Rather, the differences are of a nomenclature nature, as all of them are centered on the same points: discussion of issues relating to policies, analysis of the issue, and a recommendation or policy option that can be taken.
The levels of policy studies from the simplest to the most sophisticated: 1) Policy Brief, 2) Policy Notes, 3) Policy Paper and 4) Policy Review, which must exhibit the gap in the existing policies.
Exercise 2: Drafting an Outline of Policy Study
The last session of the workshop’s first day was closed with an assignment for participants of the training. The first assignment for participants was to draft an outline of the policy study by analyzing a specific policy, which is the focus of their respective institutions. The discussion of the assignment was to be carried out in the first session of the second day of workshop.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Review of Sessions 1-2 and Exercises 1-2
- Positioning is essential in writing a policy paper, in order to determine our stance.
- Using index as an opening section in Policy Brief can be carried out in the early stages of drafting a policy paper. Another suggestion is to include indicators in compiling an index, as not every reader would understand the indicators used.
- The packaging of policy papers must be attractive and adjusted to the targeted readers. Underscoring important points by making sub-points will make it easier for readers to understand, as well as attract readers’ interest to read them to the end.
- Another significant point is to present and display data in a concise and attractive manner. For instance, a comparison of data over the years can make the data more interesting.
Sessions 3-4: Language and Presentation of Policy Research Paper and Policy Brief
In presenting a policy paper, a good outline is needed. Data in the form of numbers will make an important and interesting point, but the displayed data should be relevant to support the arguments. A connection between the data and recommendations is thus imperative.
Abstracts are unnecessary in compiling a policy paper. As an alternative, bullet points may be used to highlight the important points of the study, to accommodate policy-makers who may not be thorough in reading.
Session 5: Reviewing and Editing Policy Research Paper and Policy Brief
The more meticulous a review is on a policy research paper and policy brief, the more it exhibits the quality of an institution, specifically its internal peer review. Several questions to be considered before conducting a review:
- What is your approach in reviewing a policy research paper and policy brief?
- How long do you allocate the time to review a policy research paper and policy brief?
- What are the steps in the reviewing process?
- Who will you ask to involve in the reviewing process? (e.g. internal team who are uninvolved in the process or an external team such as academicians, experts, etc.)
Mechanism of Peer Review
The reviewing mechanism should be an integrated mechanism in the production process of the policy research papers and policy briefs. Such mechanism may be as follows:
- Review the contents of each policy research paper and policy brief
- Review the writing style of draft policy paper and policy brief
- Review the language and tone of the draft policy research paper and policy brief
- Re-read and revise the policy research paper and policy brief more than once
- Ask for suggestions and recommendations from other colleagues
- Use a check list
The editing process is a collaborative process arising from the negotiation between the writer and editor to reach a joint understanding. Ideally, an institution should have internal editors, both for substance and language. As a collaborative process, editing involves many parties such as editors, co-editors, proof readers, and reviewers. Editing would also require an effective communication between the writer and other parties. The writer could then develop the draft from the results of the negotiation process.
The editing process includes a re-reviewing. The re-reviewing process can use a check list or supporting questions to identify whether the objectives of the policy paper are fulfilled.
- Has the paper fulfilled its objectives?
- Has it presented an effective argumentation to the audience?
- Is the title interesting?
- Has the executive summary represented the entire paper?
- Has the analysis of the issue persuaded the readers that the issue is urgent?
- Is the recommendation of your policy clear and applicable enough?
- Do the appendixes support your paper?
Policy Paper holds an essential role as a medium of communication for think tanks in their advocacy to policy-makers who may lack the time to read policy papers that are too lengthy. By participating in this training, think tanks are able to make more effective and pertinent policy papers, thus advantaging the communication between organizations and policy-makers. Throughout the drafting process of the policy paper, what was also emphasized was the importance of peer review by an internal team (which was not involved in the writing process) or an external team.
From the training, WRI's researchers learned the importance of drafting a more focused policy brief on a certain issue, complemented with a simple yet attractive display of data. This can build the readers’ interests to fully read the policy brief and understand the urgency of the policy paper's issue of focus. Another point was the importance of the peer review process both by the uninvolved internal and external teams to enhance the quality of the policy brief and policy paper. WRI realizes that the process of peer review is a stage that must be conducted to gain an interim response regarding the quality of the research products.***