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Chayn is a global nonprofit that creates resources for survivors of gender-based violence.

This Guide is about providing structured, interactive support to people. It focuses on providing trauma support safely for both volunteers and survivors through tailored and automated support interactions. Try it if you want to communicate discreetly and offer trauma-informed support to individuals or groups.

While Chayn's solution has multiple parts, is not expensive nor technically difficult to set up.

Steps to delivering structured support using connected apps

The types of questions to think about are:

  • Who do we want to reach?

  • How do we know the material we want to use will be helpful? Is it evidence based or already tested?

  • What kind of materials do we want to share (text, image, video etc)?

  • What kind of interaction do we want to offer (online calls, polls, chat threads etc)?

  • Do we want to engage at specific times (synchronous) or have things available whenever people want (asynchronous)?

Chayn introduced their structured interactive trauma support at the beginning of the pandemic. They wanted to reach people who had been feeling unsafe at home, particularly with the rise of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

They had already been working on a face-to-face trauma resilience programme. They had access to two different approaches that were already well tested. These were:

They also had experience of working with diverse and younger audiences. They knew they wanted to make materials shorter and more engaging using video.

This can take you deeper into the same questions you asked in Step 1. You also need to think deeply about:

  • Safety and safeguarding

  • Data privacy and protection

  • Accessibility and preferred methods of communicating

Think about the people you want to support and your staff or volunteers.

Chayn set out the needs for the people they wanted to help:

  • They need emotional support to help them cope and recover and they need this on an ongoing basis

  • They need support to be unobtrusive (hard for abusers to spot) and private (not revealing information such as contact details)

  • They need to be able to get support when it is safe for them to do so

  • Some users would find it easier to connect to support if they don’t have to speak out loud to access it.

They set out the needs for their volunteers:

  • They needed to be able to keep boundaries between the support they offer and the rest of their life

  • They needed to keep their privacy (such as not sharing personal details).

To run this kind of project you can choose from:

  • Chat tools (just one, or linked together)

  • Team management software

  • Online learning platforms

What you choose depends on the needs of the people you want to support and on your team. It also depends on what technology your organisation is comfortable with and able to set up.

How a message from Chayn might look on a user's phone.

Chayn decided to combine 3 tools.

Their participants use Telegram.

The volunteers use a dedicated channel in the team management tool Slack.

They connect the two through the chatbot, Crisp.

They chose Telegram because:

  • It does not display participants names or phone numbers

  • It encrypts messages

  • It is easy for participants to turn notifications off

  • Messages can be set to self-destruct

  • It is not that widely used, so it is less likely that abusers will try to look through it and see messages (the way they might with a chat tool like WhatsApp)

  • You can create a group where only the administrator shares things and participants respond 1-to-1 rather than to everyone.

They chose Slack because:

  • Their staff and volunteers already used it

  • It can be used on a computer rather than a phone

  • It is a tool people think of as part of their work, not their social life

  • In a dedicated Slack channel the team can easily see all the messages and keep track of 1-to-1 conversations.

They chose Crisp because it is a cross-channel customer support messaging service that connects Telegram and Slack via a chatbot. 

This means that people seeking support can message Chayn on Telegram and get automated responses from Chayn via Crisp. Crisp also sends these Telegram messages to Chayn's internal dedicated Slack channel. Then any authorised volunteer can respond to the sender via Slack. Crisp takes the response message from Slack and sends it back to the participant through Telegram. 

This process creates a seamless experience for the user. All the messages they receive, whether automated or not, come from Chayn.

How you advertise and invite people will depend on the choices you’ve made about the type of interaction you want to provide. You need to think about:

  • Have you set it up so group participants can talk to each other? This is higher risk - it might be better to start with a smaller group. This could mean offering the service only via direct invitations to people your staff are already supporting through the other services you run.

  • Are there any risks about the wrong people seeing the link and trying to join? Have you got a plan for dealing with that?

  • If you do want to advertise widely, what channels can you use (social media, press etc)?

Chayn organised their Telegram group so members can see all the materials they share. They encourage the members to interact 1-to-1 with Chayn. They do not give them a way to communicate with each other directly. 

Chayn wanted to include as many people that needed this support as possible. They shared a link on their website and via social media. They also got press interest because their group was a pandemic response. As the programme ran, people in the group began to refer their friends too.

When people first used the link, they were connected 1-to-1 with Chayn. Volunteers shared an introduction video and answered questions people had.

When trauma support courses are run in person, group bonding can happen quickly. This can help people stay engaged with the materials. When you run support online for people to access in their own time, people won’t be so connected or engaged.

This means you need to encourage a sense of engagement and ways to interact. This could include:

  • Polls

  • Prompts to share back to the group or course provider

  • Providing the same resources in different formats to suit different people

Making sure you have plenty of interactions is important. Group members might not realise how much support and effort is going into the programme.

Chayn wanted to find a way to build trust between group members online.

First they used a survey to find out the safest time to send messages. Based on this the chatbot now sends materials and resources between 6pm and 9pm.

As well as sharing materials and resources they also ask questions as prompts. Group members respond to Chayn with their answers and can have a 1-to-1 conversation with a volunteer. The volunteers use these conversations to create new videos inspired by questions group members asked.

Chayn also offer some prompts where people's responses can be shared back to the group to create a sense of community. This can include things like:

  • Sketches of animals

  • Self-care tips

  • Favourite songs

They’re always very careful to make it clear exactly what the group members are being invited to do.

Volunteers also spend some of their time making sure group members know how much effort goes into creating materials for them. This helps members value them more, and believe that they will be useful.

Running structured support of this type takes time and energy. It’s crucial to make sure that people are benefiting from it.

You need to combine:

  • Monitoring - tracking which things you send are being read, watched and responded to

  • Feedback - mechanisms to allow people to tell you what they think

  • Review - a method to make decisions about what to do next based on your monitoring and feedback

Chayn track as many different elements of participation as possible.

They know how many people are watching videos and for how long.

They also know how many messages are being sent and by whom. They even track what percentage of people are completing feedback forms.

Every week they offer both a quick poll and a feedback form. The feedback form questions focus on “was it useful?”, “what was most useful?”, and “what else would be useful?"

The team have a weekly review meeting. They use these to plan both short term activities and longer term strategy.

They review individual conversations and plan prompts for the next week. They also set up an evaluation schedule for looking at feedback results and making changes.

As a result of feedback they have:

  • Run Instagram live sessions responding to questions sent in anonymously

  • Started sending out cat GIFs to celebrate weekly achievements.

The weekly meetings also help the team support each other. Users can experience strong emotions when they begin working through their trauma. This means that feedback can be full of negative responses. The team remind each other that certain types of negatives are expected and OK.

Further information

See other guides related to supporting people dealing with domestic abuse

Learn more from Chayn