The purpose of the policy analysis brief is to summarize all sides of an issue, in a balanced discussion that will assist an individual or a group (“client organization”) that has an interest in the topic, in understanding the major policy options available. The tone should be neutral and non-judgmental. The brief may also be used to inform and persuade others such as the media, known supporters, known opponents, and members of the general public. Typically the brief will identify one option as being preferable over the others, and will recommend that option for implementation. Major sections of the brief are as follows:
1. Problem statement This section defines the problem being addressed in the analysis, using one sentence, in the form of a question. The problem statement should be phrased broadly enough to lead to the possibility of several options. No recommendation should be contained or implied in the problem statement.
2. Background This section explains why a problem has been chosen for analysis, and provides the basic facts and information necessary to understand the problem being addressed.
3. Landscape This section provides the overall context of the issue by identifying key stakeholders and the issues that should be considered when analyzing the problem. Which stakeholders will be included depends on the issue being analyzed and the phrasing of the problem statement. Examples of the aspects of a problem that a policy analyst may discuss in this section include political factors, social factors, economic factors, legal factors and practical factors.
4. Options Analysis This section should provide three to five options for the reader to consider. Each option should address the challenge summarized in the problem statement and should be within the power of the client organization to do. This section should also identify the criteria that will be used to evaluate and compare the options, and should identify pros and cons for each option. A side-by-side table is an easy way to clarify the options discussed in this section.
5. Recommendation This section should choose one of the options as the recommended course of action for the client organization. Note that doing nothing by maintaining the status quo may be an option. For the recommended option, this section should summarize in a balanced way, why this option is better than the others, despite the disadvantages that may be associated with the option. Identify any action that may be taken to mitigate the disadvantages associated with the recommended option.