What Difference does a Policy Brief Make? - International Initiative for ...

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What Difference does a Policy Brief Make?

Penelope Beynon, Christelle Chapoy, Marie Gaarder and Edoardo Masset August 2012

What Difference does a Policy Brief Make? Penelope Beynon, Christelle Chapoy, Marie Gaarder and Edoardo Masset

August 2012

What difference does a policy brief make? Penelope Beynon, Christelle Chapoy, Marie Gaarder and Edoardo Masset First published by the Institute of Development Studies the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) in June 2012 © Institute of Development Studies and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) 2012 All rights reserved. Reproduction, copy, transmission, or translation of any part of this publication may be made only under the following conditions: • with the prior permission of the publisher; or • with a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd., 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HE, UK, or from another national licensing agency; or • under the terms set out below. This publication is copyright, but may be reproduced by any method without fee for teaching or nonprofit purposes, but not for resale. Formal permission is required for all such uses, but normally will be granted immediately. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re-use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, prior written permission must be obtained from the publisher and a fee may be payable. This research was funded by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), or 3ie or DFID. The publishers have made every effort to ensure, but do not guarantee, the accuracy of the information within this publication. IDS is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (No. 877338).

2 What Difference does a Policy Brief Make? Full Report of an IDS, 3ie, Norad study Beynon, P.; Chapoy, C.; Gaarder, M. and Masset, E.

Summary Research has potential to improve the lives of the world’s vulnerable people if it is appropriately referred to in decision-making processes. While there is a significant industry of activity each year to communicate research findings, little systematic research has tested or compared the effectiveness of such efforts either for changing beliefs or for prompting action. Using a randomised control design, this study explored the effectiveness of one popular research communication tool, a policy brief, and queried whether different versions of a brief bring about different results. We find that the policy brief had little effect on changing the beliefs of readers who held strong prior beliefs on entering the study, but had some potential to create evidence-accurate beliefs among readers holding no prior beliefs. Also, when it comes to beliefs, the impact of the policy brief seems to be independent of the specific form of the policy brief. However, different versions of the brief (versions that include a research Opinion with or without a suggestion that the opinion is from an Authoritative source) do achieve different results when it comes to prompting actions. We find that other factors internal and external to the brief (gender of the reader, reader’s self-perceived level of influence and the extent to which the reader feels ‘convinced’ by the brief) are also linked to action. This first-of-its-kind study has implications for how research communication experts design policy briefs, how they understand and enable readers to act as knowledge brokers in their particular environment, and how we evaluate research communication going forward.

Keywords: Research communication, RCT, randomised control trial, policy brief, beliefs, actions

Authors Penelope Beynon is an independent M&E Advisor, with a particular interest in embedding organisational learning systems and facilitating frontline-led change. Penelope believes that peopl