How-To Guides

Brief Description:

Adapted from the OHCHR Toolkit:
How-to guides give practical and operational guidance within a specific area of work of FAO. They provide practical suggestions on how to implement a task or project in the best possible way to achieve the objectives effectively.


When to use:

  • To provide/obtain practical advice
  • To follow operational instructions
  • To obtain step-by-step guidance
  • To codify tacit knowledge about a specific activity or task.

How to use:

Step 1: Identify the issue
Identify the activity for which you want to develop the How-to guide. This should be a recurrent activity for which the organization would benefit from consistency in the way the activity is undertaken.
Step 2: Research
Information resources for data and expertise collection can include existing manuals and guidelines produced by FAO and other organizations, lessons learned if they have been captured, mission reports, reports, templates of letters, standard messages and e-mails.
Step 3: Drafting
  • The development of a How-to guide requires a lead author and a process manager, who should be given the time to develop it. Depending on resources and on the scope of the guide, these two roles may be fulfilled by one person.
  • When starting a How-to guide, the lead author outlines the drafting and review process, determines necessary steps, assesses the required time frame (including deadlines), and calculates financial resources needed (including translations if desired).
  • Although there is no prescribed format for How-to guides, they should be as concise as possible and follow a step-by-step logic. When relevant, reference should be made to existing FAO manuals and guidelines. Templates and checklists should be annexed when appropriate.
Step 4: Reviewing
A small (up to six people) well targeted group can set up a Peer Assist for the planning, design and development of the How-to guide. They should be willing to comment on the outline and structure of the Guide, and at a later stage, on its detailed contents.
Step 5: Dissemination
The How-to guide can be posted on the Intranet, disseminated through newsletters and presented in coffee briefings or in section, branch or field presence meetings.
Step 6: Follow-up
A content review and update one year after completion is recommended. This should include a review of the use and usefulness of the guide by selected field presences. This feedback should be used to update and revise the How-to guide if necessary.

Tips and Lessons Learnt:

  • Foresee adequate resources to develop these guidelines. They do not materialize on their own in the course of normal staff work. Adequate time and resources are needed to develop these knowledge products.
  • Pay particular attention to the writing style, keeping it as simple and practical as possible. Technical language may be used if it is likely to be understood by the target audience.
  • In most cases, colleagues who have worked in the subject area will have the best knowledge. Ideally, they should be the authors of the How-to guides. If this is not feasible, it is essential to involve them in all stages of development, review and follow up.

Examples & Stories

(add yours)

Who can tell me more?

Related Methods / Tools / Practices



methods, guides

Photo or image credits