How great research reports can help a campaign

Some of the wonderful policy colleagues I work alongside are going to be spending time today considering what makes a good research report.

Which has got me thinking about how a great policy report can really help a campaign.

Clearly, the general public aren’t the primary audience for a policy report. They’re normally written to influence key decision makers or technical experts within a government department and as such rightly have an appropriate style and tone.

But I’ve seen how a good policy report can be a massive benefit to a campaign, providing evidence, facts, recommendation and information that is critical to engaging the public.

So here are my thoughts on how policy reports can really help a campaign:

1 – Tell some great stories – Sure, policy reports need to focus on the findings of field research and draw out overall trends and issues, but I’m convince that in the hard work of collecting this information most researchers come across some brilliant stories. Sharing a few of these in your report can help to make the recommendations come alive.  They bring a human face to the recommendations, and my hunch is that even policy makers enjoy reading them.

2 – Use some killer facts – Duncan Green has written about this, but facts that stick can really help to bring the injustice of a situation in one memorable statistic. Invest time in thinking about what these are, perhaps brainstorm with some others to identify them.

3 – Invest time in the Executive Summary – Sure it’s the last thing that get’s written and when you write it your fed up with the research, but often the part of the report that gets read the most. For campaigning having an accessible executive summary can be something to share with those supporter who want to go further or need a little more convincing.

4 – Consider writing that seminal policy report  – Especially useful at the start of a campaign is the report that helps to frame the issue and provide the campaigner. This is the type of report that gets referred to over and over again, and probably means that the campaigner will end up asking the researcher/policy officer so many questions! A great example is Oxfam Make Trade Fair report launched to coincide with the start of their campaign in 2002.

5 – Work in collaboration – It’s great to be able to quote in presentations to supporters that research by x NGO and y University has found that. If it’s possible work with other organisations, think tanks or institutes it’ll give the research even greater legitimacy.

6 – Tell us about it before you write it! We’ll be interested in it and perhaps we can help to provide some ideas about how to communicate your research beyond the usual suspects.  Consider using an info-graphic to communicate the main message of your report.

Campaigner – Do you agree? What else would you add?
Researchers – What have I overlooked? Have I hideously over simplified the process?

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