Freeing the Policy Writer Within: David Chrisinger, the Harris Writing Workshop, and the Power of Narrative
By David Chrisinger
28 Oct 22

In his first week on the job at Harris in early 2019, David Chrisinger, MAPSS’10, was asked to present a workshop on how to write a policy pro forma, a brief or memo that argues a policy position. He reserved a large auditorium-like classroom in the recently opened Keller Center.

Somebody should have found a bigger room.

“There was a huge turnout,” Chrisinger recalled. “People were lined up against the back of the auditorium. We didn’t have enough space for everybody.”

In those early months, Chrisinger recalled presenting five or six workshops that drew similar, heavy turnouts. He logged 40-50 appointments a week with students.

The Writing Workshop was off to a running start. In the three years since Chrisinger was hired as director, it has continued to grow, innovate, and refine while positioning itself as an increasingly important component of a Harris education.

Chrisinger served as a public policy instructor at Johns Hopkins University for six years and is the author of Public Policy Writing That Matters (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), which made him the winner of the 2022 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. He worked with Dean Katherine Baicker and school leadership to design programming for the Writing Workshop. His priority: developing the workshop to focus on writing that moves people.

I came from the school of thought that people are more persuaded by stories than they are by data points,” Chrisinger said. “That doesn’t mean that data is not important. It just means that it has to be the prop. It can’t be the main character.

The Workshop teaches a combination of objective and subjective writing, narratives based on solid evidence designed to meet the needs and expectations of the reader.

“Argumentation meets persuasion” is how Chrisinger frames it.

As the resource grows, it offers writing seminars, short skill-development videos, one-on-one coaching, and other comprehensive guidance to support students in learning how to communicate evidence-based policy. The larger goal, Chrisinger said, is for every policy-related class in the country that requires a policy memo to direct students to the Harris Writing Workshop.

The Persuasive Writing Credential is a six-week course to practice evidence-based writing and strategies that incite meaningful action. Through interactive lectures and case studies, you will cultivate a robust toolkit to write, revise, and polish persuasive policy stories tailored to meet the unique needs of your audience.


  • No prior experience in professional writing or editing required
  • 100% online with interactive, synchronous lectures
  • Capstone writing project and deliverable
  • Shareable certificate of completion to showcase your skills

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David Chrisinger Wins 2022 George Orwell Award