What is a policy memo?

A policy memo is a brief summary, solution, and argument for some problem being addressed through policy. An effective policy memo should explain the basic background of the problem at hand, introduce an idea for a policy as a solution to the problem, and convincingly argue to support the proposed policy. The idea behind a policy memo is that a political figure will be able to pick up the memo on their desk and immediately know what the problem is, what the writer's idea is, and whether or not (based on the arguments) they want to talk to the writer about their idea. Policy memos are used every day to push ideas up to the top and implement real policy change. Policy writing is great for practicing concise writing with no decorative language, and for gaining confidence when backing up original ideas with convincing arguments and relevant research. 

Who are policy memos for?

An important part of any policy memo is the intended audience. At Yale IPC, the intended audience is up to the delegates. Policy memos can be written for the head of state of any country, the head executive of a relevant organization, a general public, or a team of specified individuals, such as the United Nations Security Council, or the deputy heads of state in the Middle East. 


What should I include in my memo?

Policy memo outlines vary, but the basic format is the same in every case. A policy memo's header should include the writer, the intended audience, and the subject at hand, along with the date. Following that, the memo should start with an executive summary which lays out in very concise sentences what exactly the proposed policy is. Following that should be basic background information to contextualize the problem, and then the in-depth evidence for the specific recommendations from the executive summary. This will typically be the longest part of the memo. In some memos, there is also an area for "counterarguments" where the writer offers rebuttals to possible counterarguments. After the argument section is the conclusion, which wraps up the memo with a final reminder of the recommendations and main arguments. Length varies across memos, but is typically kept between one and (at most) three pages. 

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