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Image credit: Alvin Chua

How to build a toolkit

How to build a toolkit

Sharing the know-how on how to lead change

When Queen's Young Leaders, Jessica Dewhurst and Gunjan Mhapankar got together in summer 2017, they came up with an idea to create a toolkit. Ahead of its launch next month, Jessica tells Leading Change how they put it together.

Be clear on what it is

“We thought wouldn’t it be cool to kind of put together a little toolkit based on HIV advocacy, ultimately that will help other QYLs and other youth in projects to start doing HIV work,” says Jessica.

She adds that it is really important to “have absolute clarity” about what you want to achieve, and to ensure it is in line with the aims of funders and stakeholders.

“They want to achieve, and you have a different idea of what you want to achieve, so be sure that your goals are aligned.”

Carry out a needs assessment

It’s so easy to put a lot of resources, time and work into something that no one ever uses.

Jessica suggests that you should do a needs assessment before you start work, so that you know the toolkit you are creating will be used.

“I think it’s an injustice as well to use funds on something that’s going to sit on a shelf. So it needs to be something that people have actually requested and that people want.”

Your needs assessment should – among other things – ask:

  • has something similar already been provided by someone else or another organisation?
  • how many people need the toolkit?
  • who are its target audience?

what does this audience need from the toolkit?

Involve experts

Jessica runs a human rights organisation, the Edmund Rice Justice Desk (ERJD). Speaking from experience she says, “There are so many materials out there but they are so disconnected from what it’s actually like in communities – grassroots communities.”

She adds that she and Gunjan wanted their toolkit to be useful to people working in those grassroots communities.

They were lucky to be put in touch with a medical expert who had been working in this area for a long time, Dr Ralph Kwame Akyea.

Ralph is a Research Associate at the University of Nottingham in the UK, and was formerly an mentor on the Queen’s Young Leaders Mentoring Programme. Jessica says that involving him was “fantastic” because he helped her and Gunjan to “strengthen the toolkit”.

“He could understand a need for it because he works in the field,” she explains. “He would be like ‘yes’ in this case, ‘no’ in this case. Because he’s qualified and he’s been doing this for many years, he was able to tell us in the field this is how it is from the medical side.”

Test it with users

With their toolkit, Jessica and Gunjan wanted to do inspire people and help them to become advocates for the rights of those suffering with HIV.

“So if you’re just starting this out, here are things that you can do,” explains Jessica. “But also if you‘re kind of in this, and you want to improve your knowledge of it, here’s a bunch of useful information.”

So they took early drafts of the toolkit and gave it to grassroots activists in communities in South Africa and Zambia – “the people who live in the communities where the suffering is happening, where the injustice is happening”.  

Jessica says this user testing and feedback was invaluable. “They were able to say, ‘okay this looks good’, ‘I don’t know if I’d do this,’ ‘this makes sense’.”

This was important because Jessica and Gunjan didn’t want to put loads of work into something – and use up valuable resources – on something that was never going to be used.

“We wanted to make sure that what we were putting in the toolkit is actually relevant.”


Putting the toolkit together has been challenging because those involved live on three different continents. However, the HIV Toolkit is scheduled for launch in July 2018 and Leading Change will catch up with it then.

“We have a really awesome guy who is putting it together in a book for us,” says Jessica.

“It has been a work of love!”

Dr Ralph Kwame Akyea

Jessica says that involving Ralph was “fantastic” because he helped her and Gunjan to “strengthen the toolkit”. “He could understand a need for it because he works in the field.”