Policy Brief I: Poverty Assessment

Poverty Assessment Memo

DUE ON CANVAS BY 11:59 PM, 10/16/2020


Work through the following assignment. Your support should be drawn from the assigned reading, class discussion, and your own additional research.


You are an intern with the United Nations mission of a bottom billion country. You must write a 5 page (double spaced) poverty assessment memo in preparation for the Sustainable Development Goals summit in which you:

· Summarize your country’s development status, integrating the various indicators we have discussed in class or encountered in the reading.

· Analyze the various “traps” under which your country is suffering (pulling from traps discussed in class and/or reading). In order to support your points, you should integrate data/information from the various organizations/web sites we have visited in class or encountered in the reading.

· Conclude in a paragraph with development priorities/solutions for your country (at this point, you are not in expert in this; you’re just practicing reaching conclusions based on the data).


Policy memos inform their audience in a concise, organized, and professional manner, while still including the most relevant content. An effective memo will do its job after one quick read. Focus on content, structure, organization, and clarity.


Your memo should contain:

1. A header in which you identify to whom the author is writing, the identity and authority of the author, and the topic.

2. An executive summary, which is a single paragraph that summarizes the major findings of the memo, such that a reader would not need to read the entire brief in order to grasp the main findings. In this case, by the end of your summary, I want a 3 – 4 sentence overview of your country followed by your poverty diagnosis of its traps. This is your argument!

3. Sections led by subheadings:

a. A 1 page section that provides an overview of your country’s development status. Make sure you define development first, and talk about concepts. Don’t just dump a lot of data on the page. Things to think about: what things should we be looking at when trying to capture a country’s development status? Try to think about the social, economic, and or political components that you think are important and pick a few critical indicators. Also, think about trajectory. Are things getting better? Worse? This is the section where you need to describe what your country “looks like” from a development standpoint.


b. A 3 – 4 page analysis of your country’s “traps.” In other words, why does it look the way it does in terms of its development indicators? You might draw from traps discussed by Collier, or other authors we discuss, such as Jeffrey Sachs, or Daron Acemoglu. Make sure you explain the logic of your traps before you demonstrate how your country is enmeshed in them.


4. A paragraph conclusion. A conclusion doesn’t just restate the intro. Ideally, a conclusion pulls together some of the implications arising from your earlier points. What do your findings indicate about the direction your country is taking? About what needs to be addressed? About what should be a priority?


5. An accepted form of citation (see http://pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp) followed by a works cited page.



Your paper should rely on at least 5 – 7 outside references, which will probably all come from the internet. Please check with me if you have questions about the validity of your source.


A good way to discuss data is to put it in a chart or a visual and then refer to it in your paper. This won’t be used in your overall page count; you still should write 5 – 7 pages of text.


Places to begin your research:

For a paper that is this short (and in such a narrow time frame) think about using articles and reports, rather than books as your main outside sources. Here a few places that might have relevant sources of information:

OSU Library 1st Search


BBC Country Profiles


Times Topics


CIA World Factbook


Freedom House


Library of Congress Country Studies


The Economist country briefings


US Institute of Peace


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Center for Strategic and International Studies


Foreign Policy


Foreign Affairs



POTENTIAL Data sources:

(Maybe you find additional ones!)

World Bank Data Visualizer


Country cases


World Bank poverty assessments

(search for this – the link is really long)

UNDP’s web page devoted to country reports




Observatory of Economic Complexity


Conflict trap:

Uppsala Conflict Data Program


Fragile States Index, http://fsi.fundforpeace.org/

Natural Resource trap:

World Bank Data on natural resource rents


CIA World Factbook has economic data


Governance trap

Transparency International


Freedom House


Where can you look for landlocked with bad neighbors trap?


Want to know more about policy memos in general?


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