Follow instructions and write policy memo

Prepare a policy memo. The purpose of a policy memo is to advise a busy policymaker/decision-maker on a specific issue. The memo clearly states a problem and describes a recommended solution to the problem, while conveying the writer’s mastery of knowledge of the issue.

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Keep your memo brief and easy to understand because the policymaker makes many decisions every day, and your issue is only one of many issues on which she must act. You will probably want to choose a policy position related to your main thesis in your final paper for the class, but you are welcome to choose any policy for this assignment.

Your memo will:

  • Define the problem/issue your proposed policy addresses
  • Describe your proposed solution
  • Succinctly explain the reasons you have for arriving at your conclusion
  • Anticipate challenges in implementing the policy and propose workarounds for these obstacles
  • Suggest concrete next action steps for the policymaker/decision-maker

Policy memos in the real world come in different formats and lengths. There is no single template that is most appropriate for all of the different topics our class will be discussing. I provide one template suggestion below. Feel free to modify the template as you see fit. If a specific component does not fit your topic, exclude it; if you feel an additional component would improve your memo, include it. Tables, charts, and other visual aids are not required but may be included if they improve your memo.

To: [Name and title of an official with authority over the policy you are discussing]
From: [Your name]
Date: [Date]
Subject: [Detailed subject heading conveying the key recommendation in your memo]

[Problem Statement and Overview of Recommendation]
In one paragraph, state the problem you are proposing to address as well as your proposed solution. Use statistical data when possible to give details on the scope of the problem. Briefly summarize your proposed solution.

[Reasons for Your Recommendation]
In a few paragraphs, justify your recommendation. The first sentence in each paragraph should provide a key reason for your coming to the conclusion that your solution is the preferred solution. The remainder of the paragraph supports the first sentence. If headings can help you convey your point more clearly and quickly, use bold headers for each key point in this section.

[Implementation Challenges and Next Action Steps]
Give insight on potential challenges in implementing your recommended policy. When possible provide suggestions on how to overcome the potential challenges. Offer concrete next steps the policymaker can take to move forward with your suggested plan.

Your policy memo should be 1.5-2 pages single-spaced, not including figures and works cited. Including figures and a works cited list may bring the memo to 2.5-3 pages in length.

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