YPFP NATO Series 2023 – Policy for the Future – a Workshop on Policy Writing

Policy for the Future Workshop NATO Event Brussels 2023

“One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end” – George Orwell, Politics and English Language (1946)


Main takeaways:  

  • Policy officers need clear, concise, and simple writing. The content should be tailored for the audience and purpose – whether sharing information or suggesting actions. A good written text begins with impact, makes key points in each paragraph, and concludes strongly.
  • NATO policies result from consensus, guided by Allies. Military and international staff facilitate comprehensive representation of member nations' interests.
  • Design Thinking, an agile and user-focused approach, can enhance policy development. Through iterative user engagement, it translates needs into effective policies.
  • Workshop participants immersed in Design Thinking through role-play. They crafted user-centered policies addressing real issues like work-life balance, underscoring the approach's value.

The event took place on 28 June 2023, and was organised in partnership with NATO. The workshop was led by Ulrich Pilster (PhD), Policy Officer at NATO Operations Division, Marija Sulce, YPFP Brussels Managing Director, and Matteo Tomasina, YPFP Security and Defence Director.

The workshop began with Ulrich Pilster sharing advice on how to write effectively, which is an essential skill for a policy officer at an organization such as NATO. Good policy writing means understanding who will read what you write and why you're writing it – usually to share information or suggest things to do. He explained that when you write policies, it's best to be clear, concise, and simple. He also talked about how NATO makes its policies. NATO policies are developed based on guidance from the Allies, and then negotiated and agreed by consensus, with the support of military authorities and the international staff. This collaborative approach ensures that policies are comprehensive and representative of the collective interests of NATO member nations. Pilster also gave recommendations on how to write well. He said to start with the most important information, then tell people what's most important to remember, and suggest what they should do. Each paragraph of what you write should focus on just one thing, and you should end with a strong point. He pointed out that these skills help people working at NATO do their jobs better. By writing policies that everyone can understand, they can make sure that the policies represent the interests of all the different countries.

The second part of the workshop was conducted by Marija Sulce. She guided the participants through a hands-on exercise on Design Thinking applied to policy development. She explained how Design Thinking, as an agile and iterative approach, can lead to better policy development by engaging with the users, understanding their needs and translating them into policy decisions. The participants were divided into small groups, and asked to take on different roles, including interviewers, policy designers, and users. By following a structured approach, the participants were asked to develop and propose basic policies to address issues of common concern, such as work-life balance, to grasp the basics of Design Thinking.

Written by Matteo Tomasina, Director of Security and Defence, YPFP Brussels