Students learn about policy writing, with Nate Loewentheil

Publication date 
October 30, 2020

On Friday October 30, ISPS and the Policy Lab hosted a policy-related skills training workshop on “How to write a policy brief.” The session was led by Nate Loewentheil, an investor, social entrepreneur, and nationally recognized public policy expert, as well as an ally of ISPS and early architect of the student Fellows programs. Participants in the workshop included ISPS-affiliated students and others from across Yale University, hailing from the Departments of History, Economics, English, Political Science, and American Studies and the Schools of Law, Medicine, Public Health, and the Environment.

The session offered general principles for developing and writing a policy brief, using a recent report co-authored by Nate, Big Ideas for Small Business, to illustrate.

To successfully develop and write a policy paper requires effort in three main areas: “Getting smart” about the subject, organizing your ideas in writing, and telling a clear story. Using the example of the recent policy paper he co-authored, Nate explained the significance and the strategies of each. First, educate yourself about the state of play with regards to the subject you are writing about. This includes reviewing academic literature, interviewing experts, researching the legislative history of the policy and the current policy landscape. Second, put pen to paper. Start writing to organize your ideas and iterate often, checking against any new knowledge or developments. Third, “lift up” to tell a compelling story: work to concisely and clearly communicate the main themes in your paper.

Questions from the audience focused on strategies for gathering background knowledge on the topic, on how to tailor publicity materials in the right way to the right people, how to ensure that all relevant perspectives are reflected in the final product, what to do when data are hard to find, as well as tips on collaborating with co-authors.

Earlier sessions in the Policy-Related Skills Development series included How to Research Legislative History, with John Dearborn and Big Lessons from Small Nations: How to Do Comparative Policy Analysis, with R. James Breiding.

The policy-related skills development series will resume in the Spring semester. Please visit our website for more information on Policy-Related Skills Development.