Guide to Creating Toolkits

Posted on Posted in Toolkit Guide

What is a Toolkit

A “toolkit” is a curated resource that provides relevant information that can guide users to replicate promising practices and emerging practices. When we use the term curated, we are referring to the process of analysing resources and determining what content is the most relevant and clearest on a specific topic and presenting it in an accessible and meaningful way.

A toolkit contains the instructions (program manual) and tools (e.g. logic model/theory of change, workshop designs, policy and procedures, program evaluation) to build the program. Most toolkits are online resources, but may also include modules for offline delivery and use.

At Eva’s, we have used toolkits to share our: Phoenix housing model, Family Reconnect Program, Youth Action to Reduce Drug Use Program. Our toolkits are guides that contain:

  • the need for the program, background on the program
  • resources needed to plan a similar program (e.g. theoretic frameworks)
  • program tools (e.g. intake forms)
  • further reading/other examples

Please note toolkits about promising practices need to have had a comprehensive evaluation completed.

The LGBTQ2S Toolkit is the first one created by the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness. This Toolkit is intended to offer training for all staff to better support LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness. It is also a resource of tools for organizations to access to develop policies, forms and program models.The LGBTQ2S Toolkit is about professional development training and sharing intervention models that are working across the country and tools that can be replicated.

Questions to ask before you start

There are a number of important questions that need to be answered before you start working on your toolkit.

1. Is it a toolkit or a tool?

A tool is an instrument (e.g. a checklist, an intake form, policy and procedures). Tools are great and incredibly helpful. But a tool doesn’t a toolkit make. For example, a housing intake policy and procedure is not enough for a toolkit. But it would be an important tool for the Phoenix Toolkit.

2. Is there interest in your program?

What makes your program model dynamic and why should other organizations want to replicate it? Hard question, but a very important step. Developing and disseminating a toolkit is a lot of work. It is important to make sure that other organizations would be interested in learning more about your program. You may want to conduct a quick survey of partners in your network to gauge interest in your program. Another source to gauge interest is if other organizations already contact you about your work. Has your program won any awards or received recognition for the success of the program.

3. Will your toolkit be unique?

Have you conducted a search to make sure a similar toolkit does not already exist? If no, do that right now. Ask Google. Try several keyword combinations to see what you can find. If you find something, check it out. Maybe your pending toolkit will be better. Maybe there are limitations to the existing resources. If there are similar toolkits, ask yourself how will yours be different? How can you improve upon what exists? One answer may be that existing toolkits are static PDFs and yours will be an online resource that will be updated regularly (if this is true, you need to think about sustainability funding).

4. Do you have the proper resources to develop a high quality toolkit?

By now you have explored our other toolkits and are aware that there is a lot of content involved. These toolkits took a lot of time and energy to develop. What is your budget? You will need the following resources and funding to pay for them:

  • A dedicated staff person is needed to coordinate/develop the toolkit. Someone needs to write and edit the toolkit. A toolkit cannot be written on the side of a desk. It requires structured time and energy. Do you have funding for staff to work on the toolkit? Also what happens after you launch your toolkit, who will people contact for more information? You need to have staff available to answer questions.
  • You will also need money for design and layout, as well as additional supportive modules or videos. This is easier if the work can be done in house by your own communications staff. But there should be funds allocated to cover graphic design costs.
  • Enough program materials (background materials, tools, program evaluation). It is much easier to develop a toolkit as part of a program design, as it will ensure a thorough documentation of the program design and implementation stages.
  • Dissemination strategy–how will you get the word out about your toolkit? Have you connected with national groups like the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness? You should also find conferences to present at (this may cost money). Are there local network tables you can share about your toolkit?

Did you answer yes to these questions?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should rethink your plan to develop a toolkit. If you answered “yes” to all four, please continue.

Toolkit Content and Style Guide

Toolkits are structured and organized in ways that makes sense for the program being highlighted.

Content

Below are suggested structures for your content. Obviously other sections may be added.

Program model toolkits should contains the following sections:

  1. Welcome (summary of the toolkit and contact information for more details)
  2. Introduction (to organization and the program model at a very high level)
  3. Program/Project Overview (program/project summary and background)
  4. Program Type (highlights the required elements for the program model)
  5. Program Model Content (specific information on the project/program)
  6. Challenges, Successes and Recommendations
  7. Program Evaluation
  8. Conclusion
  9. References
  10. Appendices

Issue related toolkits should contains the following sections:

  1. Welcome (summary of the toolkit and contact information for more details)
  2. Introduction (to organization and the program model at a very high level)
  3. Toolkit development process
  4. Background of the issue (literature review)
  5. Promising Practices
  6. Recommendations

Style Guide

It goes without saying that your toolkit needs to follow the brand style of your organization. You need to know what the colour pantones are and the official font. It is helpful if your organization has communications staff who can work on this aspect of the toolkit project.

Toolkit Development Process

As mentioned earlier it is better to include the plan of developing a toolkit of your program during the program model design phase. This will help make sure materials you need for the toolkit are created as you design and implement the program. This will hopefully prevent needing to create materials while working on the toolkit. There is already going to be a lot work to be done.

1. Environmental Scan

What other tools and toolkits already exist? What is the current research? Answers to both of these will inform how you proceed with your toolkit development.

2. Include your key stakeholders in the process

Staff who have been involved in the program will have key insights. It is important to engage them in the process. It is also important to include program participants and external stakeholders (e.g. referring staff from other organizations). For program staff the engagement could involve asking them for their perspective on the program (e.g. staff would have insight into how participants responded to a specific workshop). External staff may be able to offer insight into the referral process for example.

3. Curate Program Materials

You need to spend time curating your program materials. For the toolkit you want to include final tools. For example the first draft of your intake form is not useful. It would be useful if there was a key learning that led to your intake form being revised. For example, staff were able to refine the questions after piloting its use for one or two sessions (there were some questions that were felt to be important at the program design stage that turned out not be when implemented). If this is of value to someone wanting to replicate your program you should note this, but there no need to muddle the waters by including a form that did not work in the toolkit.

4. Clear and Concise Language

There are a few key things to remember when preparing your text for the toolkit. First is to use clear and concise language. It is obvious that we should avoid using 5 sentences when 1 will do. It is also important to avoid jargon and acronyms.

It is also important to include definitions for key terms. For example we talk a lot about our harm reduction work and philosophy. In a toolkit we should offer a definition on what we mean by harm reduction. The same is true for terms like prevention. It would be great for your toolkit to include a glossary of key terms.

5. Design/Layout

When designing your toolkit, it is best to divide text into sections and use headers, images and videos when possible to break up long sections of text.

It is also important to make sure the toolkit is searchable. Use key terms tags to make it easier for the reader to scan your toolkit.

Dissemination

You have spent so much time and effort on your toolkit. You need to gain an audience for it.  Hopefully your organization has a strong social media presence. This is a great method to promote your toolkit. Here are some suggested dissemination channels:

  • Develop a communications brief and share it with partners, be sure to include:
    • a summary of your toolkit;
    • sample social media posts so your partners can cut and paste your posts–this will make it easier for folks to share your posts;
    • images as social media posts with images receive more views and click on links.
  • Most likely you are on several listservs, so contact them and ask them to share your toolkit information
  • Present at conferences

Contact

For more information on the toolkits of Eva’s or the LGBTQ2S Toolkit, please contact:

Lesley McMillan

Program Officer

National, Eva’s Initiatives

416-364-4716, 234

lmcmillan@evas.ca

evas.ca

learningcommunity.ca

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