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What is a White Paper?

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When government or an organization faces a particular problem, a white paper is written to discuss the issue and propose a specific course of action. A white paper is usually in the form of a report and has many contributors to its contents.

When writing a white paper, the consultants for the organization or government should consult widely and not take any of the issues or proposed solutions at face value. Part of the reason for a white paper is to state the issues and elaborate on where they come from. Then solutions to the problem can be proposed with detailed explanations of why these solutions would be effective and how they should be implemented.

The Implementation of a White Paper

The implementation of a white paper is also quite complex. Should the proposals in the white paper be accepted, there also has to be an investigation into the possible impact and repercussions these solutions would have on the various stakeholders. If you’ve written a white paper on an environmental issue, you might have to consider the impact your proposed solution could have on development work already underway, or proposed development work. There are far-reaching repercussions if development work is halted. That’s just one example of a topic for a white paper.

It is because the stakeholders could be affected severely by the suggestions made in a white paper that they should all be consulted in the formulation of a solution to the issue under discussion. Stakeholders should be given time to read the white paper and make comments on the discussion, as well as contribute their views of the issue and how it should be dealt with. Only when all the stakeholders have given their input can the author(s) of the white paper confidently present their report to the client/government.

Not Just Governments and Organizations

White papers are not always commissioned by an organization or government. Many activist groups write white papers in order to bring the issues that they are lobbying for to the fore and to make people take notice and think of not only the issues, but also the proposed solutions. These white papers are presented at Congressional meetings or any other forum where it would be appropriate to discuss the matters raised in the white paper.

Often white papers are used as the foundation for new legislation or regulations that benefit the community and the country as a whole. These white papers then become a definitive resource for students, academics and stakeholders in that industry to refer to when needed. Although the solutions are not always implemented exactly as proposed, the majority of the issue(s) could have been addressed and the implementation is sufficient at the level where it is needed.

White papers are very useful and influential tools to use in order to sway political opinion, or to get large corporations to change their practices for the greater good of all the stakeholders. If written with careful consideration the white paper can be a powerful tool of change and development.

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Meet the Author

Anthony Carter currently resides in Fife, Scotland with his wife Lisa, and their three wonderful children. As a senior editor for various publications, if he's not reading and writing, you would find him photographing and traveling to some of the most far-flung locations around the world.

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