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Room 4 – Actionable solutions to distinct problems: Crafting Issue Briefs

Not all that concerns us concerns policymakers. Not all that needs fixing, needs a policy decision. However, every problem, every issue needs a practical decision. In this workshop, we provide the tools for the creation of concise and impactful “issue briefs” that highlight the context, present the issue for consideration, offer suggestions for resolving them, and provide practical solutions for their implementation.

Duration: 1.5 days
Skill level: IntermediateFacilitators:

Objectives:

  • Participants will have a better appreciation for the value and utility of issue briefs.
  • Participants will learn how deconstruct complex research and/or implementation problems into a concise and effective format
  • Participants will produce an issue brief that will be immediately useful in own context.

Workshop details:

As researchers, decision-makers, implementers, practitioners, and advocates, we often diagnose problems that are not easily apparent but perhaps easily addressed if targeted at the right people in the right format. Many of the “issues” that we notice can be solved at a community, organizational or local level and don’t require grand national policymaker involvement. Instead of addressing and suggesting policies, there is value in raising “issues” that can be resolved with efficient and context-relevant solutions.

For this reason, 2-3 pager “issue briefs” have been found to be effective and practical in contexts where decision-making is decentralized and those affected are empowered and emboldened to evoke co-ownership of the solutions (there are 12-15 page issues briefs out there – there is nothing “brief” about 15 pages!!!).

In this workshop, we provide the tools for the creation of concise and impactful “issue briefs” that highlight the context, present the issue for consideration, offer suggestions for resolving them, and provide practical solutions for their implementation.

WHO IS THIS WORKSHOP FOR: Researchers (advanced Masters/Doctoral students or faculty) and practitioners (clinician, field officer, logistician, community mobiliser, program officer, journalist) who intend to communicate a problem to a decision maker that would be best placed through an issue brief.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY DECISION MAKER: It could be the head of your department, a district manager, community chief etc, that has the power to act upon the problem you bring to attention

WHAT SHOULD YOU PREPARE: This will be a practical hands on workshop whereby participants will have to come equipped with a recognized problem in their context (eg research papers, facility data, community concerns), an analysis of the root causes (to the extent possible), the decision maker(s) who they feel they need to address this to, and proposed solutions. Members from the same teams/organisations in the workshop are welcome to work together on a common issue.

WHAT IS THE AGENDA: On day one, the facilitators will provide a presentation on what issue briefs are and why, how and when they should be used. Examples of issue briefs will be shown and participants will be challenged to “judge” and rank them. Discussions about effectiveness of briefs will ensue and the session will end with participants being given a template and time to populate their own issue brief. On day two (half day), facilitators will begin by providing “emergent observations” on common errors they are noticing with participant products. Participants will have time to revise their issue briefs, get peer input from the group, and benefit from facilitator coaching. Select participants will be requested to do a “mock” presentation of their brief to their intended audience to get feedback and mentoring from facilitators. The session will end with a panel of judges scoring and deciding on which issue brief is the best at compelling them into action. The winner will receive a surprise! Participants MUST be willing to work on their products between day 1 and day 2 if they wish to gain from this workshop. Participants MUST be able to attend both days for ultimate benefit and minimal disruption to team dynamics.

Pre-requisites:

  • Participants must have a genuine desire to learn how to write issue briefs.
  • Participants must be equipped with a bounded Issue/problem (project, organisation, community etc) that s/he wants to address to a decision-maker. Examples of issues (or problem statements) are: underreporting of illness A in county J, higher proportion of females vs males affected by stunting in region X, inadequate lab capacity to diagnose Z in organisation B, lack of sanitation impacting child schooling in region Y, food safety guidelines underutilised in region/organisation C, cattle rustling affecting security in region W, Province G’s economy has suffered by X% due to adverse publicity, hotel closures and visitor cancellations due to the recent security breaches etc.
  • Participants must come equipped with actionable potential solutions to the issue.
  • Participants must have a personal laptop with Microsoft Word.

NB: While facilitators and peers will be available to discuss solutions to the problems at hand, the purpose of the workshop is to craft the pre-identified problems and solutions into an issue brief for presentation to a decision-maker. The facilitators therefore will be focusing on shaping content and format rather than creating content.

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