Contact a Family got in touch late last year. They were looking for help setting up their new community, developing guidelines, establishing processes and training new moderators. Over the last few months I have been working closely with them and we’re almost ready for launch.
I spent some time on scoping work – reading existing research and interviewing stakeholders throughout the organisation. This helped me understand the different requirements for the community and develop a proposed action plan.
We chose an online consultation as this was felt to be more accessible to parent carers who could sign on at any time on each of the three days of the consultation. It also enabled us to involve parents from all over the country.
Contact a Family had chosen the community platform they would like to use so I was able to set up the consultation on a basic version of the new community. This gave parents a chance to offer feedback on the platform itself and helped to familiarise them with the site.
77 people expressed an interest in the community consultation and development. We had 26 participants in the consultation workshop, giving us 228 comments and answers to our questions. Lots of participants volunteered to stay involved, give feedback on developments and form a ‘welcome committee’ when the community launched.
On day 1 we asked about what different people want from an online community, their priorities and what would put them off.
On day 2 we asked about moderation and guidelines – how we can keep the community safe without stopping people from having the discussions that help them.
On day 3 we asked participants to have good look round the existing set up and think in more detail about specific groups of users – parents of children with rare conditions, people running or looking for support groups and parent carer forum representatives.
Thank you, I’ve really enjoyed being part of this new venture and it would be a pleasure to be on the welcoming committee.
I used the consultation results to produce a detailed report of findings and recommendations for next steps in development, moderation and evaluation. I wanted to use the consultation and scoping to help us create a basic viable community – but keep it simple enough to evolve with parents’ needs and respond to how the community was used in practice. What people say about what they want and how they will use something isn’t always the same as what they actually do.
I also updated the consultation members with information about how we would use the consultation results – and offered them further opportunities to provide feedback.
I wrote a number of guidelines and procedures based on the consultation results:
- A detailed handbook for moderators including information on skills, processes, moderation tools, safeguarding procedures and template answers.
- General community copy.
- Community guidelines for members.
- Community FAQs.
- Topic introductions.
- Condition group guidelines.
- Recommended additions to Contact a Family’s terms and conditions and confidentiality policy.
- An ongoing engagement plan.
- Marketing copy for social media and the website.
- Information on the community for regional offices, support groups and CAF members.
- A presentation for a staff briefing.
The community platform had been decided before I started working with Contact a Family. Unfortunately, they could not afford a bespoke platform so we had to work within the constraints of an ‘out of the box’ product. I did a lot of work with the support contact of their chosen platform and with their designers to ensure that the community was set up appropriately and we could moderate as effectively as possible. A lot of ‘out of the box’ community platforms are set up for commercial use. We had to make a number of adjustments to make them suitable for a support community. There are still a lot of developments that could improve user experience – but we want to wait for more feedback until we do more.
I did a lot of work with the support contact of their chosen platform and with their designers to ensure that the community was set up appropriately and we could moderate as effectively as possible. A lot of ‘out of the box’ community platforms are set up for commercial use. We had to make a number of adjustments to make them suitable for a support community. There are still a lot of developments that could improve user experience – but we want to wait for more feedback until we do more.
Setting up, moderating and managing an online community requires time and staff capacity. I helped Contact a Family think about the best approach to moderation and provided recommendations around setting up an online volunteer moderator programme. Going forwards I will be continuing to help them develop these roles and train and support volunteer moderators.
I also provided moderator training for staff moderators and I will be supporting them to develop their skills and start moderating through practice answers, shadowing shifts and ongoing support.
We will be doing a ‘soft launch’ for consultation members to allow them to have a look around and offer us feedback. Over the next few months I will be providing ongoing support with moderation and engagement to help build the community and ensure it remains a safe place for parents to connect.
We have worked with Clare to develop our online community and her expertise and professional manner have been invaluable. She works with us as one of the team and it is easy to trust her to deliver high quality work. Her manner with users and staff alike is fantastic and she has helped us to find bespoke and resourceful solutions for building and developing our online community.
Thank you Clare!
Jemma South – Head of Communications and Marketing – Contact a Family