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Parents 1st UK is a charity that works to enable quality peer-to-parent initiatives to flourish during pregnancy, birth and the major life change of becoming a parent.. They provide free guides to help people design and operate new peer support initiatives.

This Guide shows how you can use the networking platform Made Open to publish and organise online guides and enable people to discuss them. Its also relevant to launching any new collection of information because it shows you what to think about.

Steps to providing a collection of online guides

How well do you know these people? Do you have regular contact with them? What do you know about how they like to learn? What do you know about how often they go online?

Can you do a user research project to understand them better? Find out more about doing user research with Catalyst’s user research resources.

Parents 1st UK had already helped people set up peer-to-peer support initiatives. They knew a lot about what people needed to know, and a bit about how they liked to get information.

For example they knew their peer leaders were often worried about making sure they did things right. They knew they needed simple and clear advice on planning, set-up, operational and legal issues. They understood that:

  • some people would want to use guides for every step of the process of setting up a new peer support initiative
  • other people wanted to improve one that was already operating. 
  • others would just want answers to a question or two.

Work through a list of questions to decide what needs to go in your online guides.

  • What do people need to know?

  • What information does your organisation have access to?

  • Are you the right people to be creating all the guides, or do you need different experts for some?

  • What materials do you already have that you could re-use?

  • Do you have someone in your organisation who understands content design or writing for the web?

If you’d like to know more about content design, use Catalyst’s resource collection about writing for your users.

Parents 1st UK started with some key advantages. They had coordinators who were experienced at helping people set up peer support initiatives. They had a strong and clear understanding of every stage of the set up process.

They also had lots of existing digital materials they could drawn from - including illustrations and animations.

Even with all those resources, they knew it would be a big project to create the full set of step-by-step guides. They found funding to pay for help to do this well. They paid their specialists and recruited a copywriter.

They produced written guides for every step of the set up process. They included images, charts and videos within many of the steps.

If you are creating a place to share resources you have several options. You could:

  • build a new website

  • use a social media group that has a “share files” option

  • use an off the shelf community platform, team management software or networking tool

  • build a bespoke networking platform built or get one adapted to your needs.

Before make the decision, make sure you have taken your work from step 1, and prioritised your users' needs. Use that to help you write a brief for the tool you want.

Need more help with this step? Use NCVO’s guide to choosing new software or tools.

Parents 1st UK created a brief and advertised it. They choose to work with Made Open.

Made Open are a community technology company who provide bespoke networking platforms. Their software is designed to help build communities. It includes lots of options for connecting people with each other, and helping them share information. Made Open added a software module specifically to help Parents 1st UK share guides.

Parents 1st UK liked Made Open’s approach because they:

  • were interested in creating the guide display module together
  • provide community platforms to other charities as well
  • have lots of different interaction and engagement options as well as directories of platform users and other features
  • offer attentive support - including discussing problems their clients have using the software and how to solve them.

If a client is keen to see a new feature, Made Open will discuss it with their other clients and see if there is an option to share the cost for building it.

They had already helped Parents 1st UK develop their digital strategy. Because of this they already had some trust.

Whatever platform you choose, make sure you test it before you launch to a wider audience.

You can start by testing a sample of the material you will put into guides, or you can test the journey through all your guides.

If you are encouraging your guide users to interact with each other, make sure you have thought about moderation, safeguarding and other things that are relevant to running online communities.

When you are ready to launch your platform, advertise it in places the people you want to visit will see it.

Once Made Open had built the guides module, it was straightforward for Parents 1st UK team to enter the content and upload their resources.

Made Open were always on hand to provide technical advice and offer constructive suggestions about how best to meet the needs of users. This made it easy for Parents 1st UK to move from testing to launch.

People need encouragement to use online guides and to interact with other people.

Plan a series of activities to help people be engaged and interact with each other.

Parents 1st UK find the following things work for them. They:

  • Run group sessions and one-to-one calls where they take people through the guides

  • Use a creative commons copyright license that allows people to download free resources from their guides and use them in their own way

  • Create discussion groups and use them to encourage people to access key information in the guides. This includes showing them how to add their own activities to the platform.

  • Connect with other charities in their field and share their guides with people those charities are working with

  • Ask about how people have found the guides. They use feedback to improve guides.

They also keep up to date with how other organisations use the platform. They do this through Made Open's customer webinars. They adopt these methods if they think it will help their community.

Parents 1st UK use the guides functionality to reflect their core values and ethos. That means ensuring the content reflects their experience (and that of like-minded others) of ‘‘what works’ in practice. Their guides are constantly growing. 

Further information