This website is an online library and print shop where anybody can access simple and thoughtful guides for building stronger communities. You can use this site to view and share how-to guides, or contribute your own experiences by creating new guides. And it's all free to access and use. Find out more:


The Livernois Community Storefront supported neighborhood business development and provided space for start-ups and neighborhood groups. Photo courtesy of Revolve Detroit.

An overview of Community How To Guides
Here are the three main ways to use this site.

1. Learn

Learn about how you can better engage with your community by browsing through our library of How To Guides. You can search by creator, category, or location.

2. Share

Found a guide you like? Share it with your network via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and email. Sign up with your name and email address to download or share.

3. Create

Can't find the guide you're looking for? Make your own on the create page, then publish it to the web, share it with your network, or download it as print-ready PDF.

Frequently asked questions.

  1. Who started this project?
  2. This project began at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) as a set of printed guides designed in part by Ceara O'Leary during her Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship at DCDC. The guides offer step-by-step support for community development processes and hurdles that DCDC and its community partners have encountered over the last several years. Right away DCDC heard that the guides were helpful resources and that there was interest in supporting the creation of additional guides that would benefit other neighborhoods and cities. DCDC and Enterprise collaborated to create an interactive website so that others could create and share guides that meet their local needs. This website was designed and built by Andrea Hansen and Patrick Stowe Jones, and generously funded by Enterprise Community Partners and the Surdna Foundation.

  3. Are these guides copyright protected?
  4. All of the content on this site, including the guides, is protected by the MIT Open Source License. The following copyright notice is included on each guide, and may not be removed or altered:

    Produced by (name of user or organization) using communityhowtoguides.org.
    (Contact information)
    Copyright ©2017 Enterprise Community Partners / Detroit Collaborative Design Center.

    Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this content and associated files, to deal in without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the content, and to permit persons to whom the content is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

    THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE CONTENT OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

  5. Can my guide be about anything?
  6. We welcome how-to guides of all kinds. For instance, you might want to make a guide related to design, transportation, education, advocacy, public space, etc. They can be as general or specific as you like, but should have something to do with community building. When in doubt, you can contact us.

  7. Can I add my own guide to the library?
  8. Yes! If you'd like to upload your own guide, use our creation tool. After your guide is complete and you have published it, it will automatically be added to the library with the tags you've selected—unless you've elected to keep it private.

  9. Where can I find images to use in my guide?
  10. There are many different options for creating or finding visuals even if you're not a graphic designer. Try tapping into your own inner creative skills by drawing something and then scanning it using a desktop scanner or an app such as CamScanner. Or, try one of these free services:

    Graphics
    Canva (A great resource for creating professional graphics including custom typography, photo filters, icons and shapes, and more.)

    Charts and Graphs
    Google Charts

    Diagrams
    Draw.io
    Gliffy
    LucidChart
    Cacoo
    Creately

    Images and Photos
    Flickr (Make sure you credit the photographer)
    Freeimages.com (All kinds of free stock photos)
    Kaboompics
    Stockphotos.io (Pinterest-like platform where anyone can sign up and add photos)
    Stocka.co (Consumer product stock photos)
    Pexels.com (A curated selection of stock photos culled from other sites)
    For more free stock image sites, see The Nu School's guide to free stock photos.

    When using stock images or other visuals you don't create yourself, remember to provide proper attribution. To read more about attribution, check out Pat Flynn's post on finding images for a blog.

  11. Do you approve guides before they show up in the library?
  12. We don't. We rely on our users to be responsible citizens and upload quality content only. However, we do periodically review the guides uploaded by our community, and reserve the right to remove any inappropriate material.

  13. Why do I need to register in order to download guides?
  14. In exchange for allowing you to use and share our content, we'd like to know a little bit about you. To download and share guides, you don't need to register, but we would like to have your name and email address. This helps us understand who is using our guides, and allows us to provide a better experience to our users. We promise we will NEVER sell your information!

Making your first guide.
Some things to think about before you get started.


Think about your objectives. Having clear intentions about what you want the guide to accomplish will help you make decisions about content along the way. Think about whether you may actually need more than one guide to explain a complex issue.   

For instance, do you want to..

  • Demystify a process and make it more transparent and easy to understand?
  • Answer frequently asked questions that your organization receives around a specific topic?
  • Share information about a new initiative or program and encourage participation?

Prepare your content beforehand. You can always log back in later to access a guide in process, but it also helps to start with the right information.   

  • What actions do you want your guide to help accomplish?
  • How can you break up those actions into a series of small steps?
  • Who does your guide serve? Does the audience have any special needs (e.g. language, disabilities)? Make sure the language you use is clear and easy for anybody to access.
  • What resources can you list on your guide, so that readers can find out more information?
  • Do you need any visuals? Icons, photos, charts or graphs can help get your point across quickly, can help make sense of complex information, and can improve accessibility.

Get the right people involved. Your guide might need input from a variety of people ranging from community members to city officials. Make sure you reach out to people who can help make sure that information in the guide is accurate and easy to use. You should definitely have a test audience review the guide before it is finalized.

Good guide tour!

In this section, we'll use one of the first guides we ever made to demonstrate the features of a how-to guide, as well as to offer some suggestions on what takes a guide from good to great.




Tips for taking action.
A few more helpful hints before you go!

Build capacity.

How To Guides are all about building capacity and agency. Make sure that the information you are providing is current, accurate, and easily actionable so that community members can gain independence and master new skills.

Do what you know.

Do one thing, not a million things. How-to guides together form a library, so focus on what you know really well in order to contribute a unique and valuable resource.

Make it accessible.

Always consider your audience. You're speaking to a community, and they're probably not policy wonks and activists, but rather residents and visitors, parents and kids, professionals and community leaders.

Community stage and event space designed by Detroit community art organization Bleeding Heart Design. Photo by Fares Ksebati.

That's it! Now get started.

Ready to make your own guides and share them with your community? It just takes a minute to get registered, and then you'll be on your way.