“All good things must begin.” – Octavia Butler 

The Garage Works Checklist is a do-it-yourself project-building blueprint that gets you and your work started in a self-funding manner. The checklist is comprehensive, chronologically ordered and accompanied by free tools, resources, and how-to-guides along the way. While it all sounds linear, it’s not. As you get deeper into the checklist, you’ll find yourself going back and revising your work in earlier steps. This is perfectly normal. Indeed, it’s necessary. This looping process is just you honing in on your singular stance in the social good space.

A few things before you begin:

  • The list is customizable. So, feel free to add, skip and/or modify steps.
  • The list is freely available and may be redistributed (with attribution)
  • You can unlock the Activities and Worksheets by enrolling in the Course.
  • A printable pdf version of the Checklist can be found at the bottom of this page.
  • Got suggestions? Send them my way.

Now, let’s begin!


Before rushing headlong into changing the world, there are some fundamental questions you need to ask of yourself:

  • What do you want to change?
  • Why?

Now, when it comes to your WHY, I don’t want to hear about money, power, prestige, status, or fame. For social innovators, those things are rarely forthcoming. And, more importantly, those things are not why we are here. That bears repeating. Those things are not why we are here. And, if you are here for those things, then it’s probably best that you move on along. I also want to know:

  • Why you?
  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?

These two steps will get you to some answers:

  1. Discover your WHY (see this worksheet)
  2. Identify your values (see this activity)


Witnessing an injustice riles us up. We want to do something. Do something now! Taking action is instinctive. However, not all actions are helpful. Some are downright harmful. So, if there is not an immediate threat to something, someone, or some other living being, then it is best to pause, think and make sure that whatever action you do take is nuanced and considered. Do these five things first:

  1. Get to know what you do not know (see this worksheet)
  2. Articulate a problem statement (see this resource and this worksheet)
  3. Craft a change statement (see this resource)
  4. Tell us about your project (see this worksheet)
  5. Identify your customer (see this resource)


Your desire to change the world will have you entering into a pre-existing ecosystem of actors (activists, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, government bodies, think tanks, and more) at the local, regional, state, national and/or international levels. You want to identify all of the individuals, groups, and constituencies involved in trying to solve the problem you are working on. Start your identification process from the smallest ecosystem (your hometown) to the largest ecosystem (the world). There are two reasons for this reconnaissance work. First, you want to build your network, connect and begin introducing yourself to others in your ecosystem. And, two, you want to build out a portfolio of work that is being done by others. This portfolio will serve as a source of inspiration when it comes time for you to decide on where you can add value and on the tone, style and look of your work.

  1. Identify the social good space you are working in (e.g., criminal justice reform).
    • Your social good space:
  2. Establish your ecosystems:
    • Your hometown:
    • Your county:
    • Your state:
    • Your country:
    • The world:
  3. For each of the aforementioned ecosystems ask and answer the following questions:
    • Are there similar projects like mine already happening or have happened?
    • Who are all of the players working on this issue?
    • Who are the key influencers, gatekeepers, and authorities?
    • Who do I want seeing my work?
  4. Make a list of all the social innovators in each ecosystem:
    • Activists
    • Non-Profits
    • Movements
    • Government agencies
    • Think Tanks
    • Bloggers
    • Journalists
    • Researchers
    • Politicians
    • Influencers
    • On-line magazines
    • On-line networks (e.g., on LinkedIn)
  5. Collect the following data (see this database template):
    • Name
    • Contact information (email, phone, address)
    • Link to their website
    • Website tagline
    • Blog/RSS link
    • Social media links
    • Contact information of key team members
    • Social media channels of key team members
  6. Subscribe to their newsletters, blogs or RSS feed.
  7. Follow them and their key team members on social media
  8. Reach out to social innovators in your ecosystem and ask them to have a conversation with you (see this activity).


You’re part of an ecosystem of on-going efforts being put forward by multiple actors in multiple roles. These efforts are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing. Changing the world is about collaboration. You need to figure out:

  • What type of change are you are best suited to make?
  • What it your role in this social good ecosystem?

To get at this, read this resource and then answer the following questions:

  1. What type of change are you best placed to pursue?
    • Perception
    • Behavior
    • Political
    • Infrastructure
  2. What are other actors focused on and how can you best complement their efforts?
  3. If you are driving change from the top-down, which archetype best fits you?
    • Influencer
    • Convener
    • Policy shaper
    • Programmer
  4. If you are driving change from the bottom-up, which archetype best fits you?
    • Storyteller
    • Motivator
    • Mobilizer
    • Platform builder


Earlier you answered the question: Who are you trying to change with your work? Now, it’s time for you to meet your customers and see the problem you want to solve from their perspective. You’ll do this in two stages. First, you’ll begin building your customer database. And, second, you’ll reach out to some of your prospective customers and ask them to have a conversation about their experience with the problem. These conversations will inform your proposed solution, messaging, campaign strategy and the creative vision you have for your content.

  1. Build your customer database (see this database template)
    • Find people in your contact list who might be customers.
    • Attend meetups and conferences.
    • Investigate other social innovators in your ecosystem and identify their customers:
      • Check their social media channels for:
        • Followers
        • Fans
        • Mentions
      • Check their websites for customer stories.
  2. Reach out to your customers and ask them to have a conversation (see this activity)


You’ve burrowed into your WHY. You’ve analyzed your WHAT; that is, your idea for changing the world. Now, it’s time to think about your HOW. How will you change the world? You change the world by creating content that others want to engage. And, through their engagement with your content, they are changed. Their behavior may change, their choices may change, or their attitudes and way of seeing the world around them may change. In the social good space, content is close to being everything.

  1. How will you share your idea for changing the world with others? In what form will you work manifest? What type of content?
    • Here’s a list of possibilities:
      • Book
      • Campaign
      • Challenge
      • Charismatic Fact
      • Conference
      • Curriculum
      • Documentary
      • Infographic
      • Manifesto
      • March
      • Petition
      • Podcast
      • Protest
      • Sit in
      • Training program
      • Workshop
      • Other…
  2. Your core idea can be repurposed into multiple pieces of content (see this resource)
  3. Check out these of free content creation tools.


What will be the impact of your work? What difference will it make? How will you know if you solved the problem you set out to solve? In order to answer these questions you need to:

  • Identify and measure a specific social performance metric that your work impacts.

Now, having said that, not all social performance metrics are specific and measurable. I know it’s a bit heretical to say; but, don’t get so wrapped up in trying to measure your impact. Here’s the thing. Some things are more easily measurable than others things. And, projects that result in specific and measurable outcomes are not necessarily better and more deserving of our efforts. Indeed, from my experience, some of the best things that happen in the social good space are not specific or easily measurable. Moreover, measuring your impact (and doing it well) can be expensive. There’s the data collection, storage, and analysis. Having said that, measuring impact is important. And, it’s beneficial to think through the questions above and strive for an answer. So, let’s rephrase the question:

  1. If an all-knowing and all-powerful entity was your research intern, what would you measure to demonstrate your impact?


It’s time to bring everything together: your vision, problem statement, who your customers are, what value you create for them and more. It’s also time to start thinking about your branding position.

  1. What is your value proposition? (see this worksheet)


You have a vision for the kind of world you want to live in. It’s time to spread your idea. You need to start building a platform for your project and setting up your branding tools.

  1. Give your project a name, look and feel
    • Review the best of the best in your Ecosystem Reconnaissance database
    • Memorable project names are PINC (ht Platform)
      • Make a Promise
      • Create Intrigue
      • Identify a Need
      • State the Content
  2. Write a tagline (see this how-to resource)
    • Should be short and clear
    • No more than 7 words
    • Use this google spreadsheet to create a tagline
  3. Design a logo (see this list of tools)
  4. Author an elevator pitch (see this how-to resource)
  5. Create business cards (see this how-to resource)
    • Communicate the basics:
      • Name
      • Logo
      • Contact Information
      • Website url
      • Tagline
      • Social Media handle
    • DIY Business Cards Tools
  6. Say “cheez” and get a headshot that establishes your credibility, builds trust, and encourages others to engage you and your work (see this how-to resource)


When it comes to building a website, colors, fonts, images and language are key to successfully drawing and keeping visitors interested. Take these steps to get started:

  1. Decide on a domain name (see this how-to resource)
  2. Secure your domain name:
  3. Select an icon for your website:
  4. Prototype a website before building one (see this list of tools)
  5. Choose a website building platform
  6. Get a hosting service
  7. Set up the following pages:
    • About
    • Contact
  8. Decide on the personality of your website
    • Write down a few words that you want visitors to use to describe you
    • Design should be simple, attractive, professional, unique, fresh
  9. Choose two to four main colors and record their hex codes (see this list of tools)
  10. Choose fonts (see this list of tools)
    • Headings
    • Sub-headings
    • Text
  11. Set up a clear site map (see this resource)
  12. Choose your call to action buttons
    • Share Our Story
    • Join Us
    • Tell a Friend
  13. Keep the background clean and simple
  14. Select images or videos for your front page (see these tools)
  15. Set up your navigation menu (see this resource)
  16. Explore plugins (the following are for wordpress)
    • Social Warfare
    • Jetpack
    • Wordfence
  17. Optimize your website (see this list of tools)
    • Mobile-Friendliness
    • Inclusivity and Accessibility
    • Loading Speed
    • Search Engine Friendliness
    • Cross Browser Friendliness
    • Screen Resolution
    • Typography
    • SEO and More
  18. Add social media follow links to your frontpage
  19. Set up analytics to learn about who visits, their demographics, by which avenue they arrived to your website and which pages they visited:
  20. Set up your security
  21. Design your footer
  22. Test your website for speed, broken links, missing page titles and more.


Email, in particular your email signature, is still one of the best ways to promote your work. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Using your domain name, set up an email address specific to your website.
    • Example:
  2. Create a signup form on your website
  3. Create a standardized email reply when some one signs up
  4. Set up an email distribution list from your sign ups.
  5. Create a standardized email template for communicating with your customers on a regular basis.
  6. Set up your email signature
    • Include one or more of the following links to your:
      • Blog
      • Website Landing Page
      • Social Media Channels
      • Mention your latest project, content or program


Damn, the marketplace for ideas is noisy. Like it or not, you’re going to need social media to help spread your idea. Your social media architecture has three components:

  • Your Website
  • Your social media channels
  • Places online where you listen in on your project (for example, google alerts)

Here, we’re talking about your social media channels. But, you need to know that not all channels are the same. Each has its own culture, language, vibe and expectations for its members. You need to be schooled in the nuances. And, the rule for social media (and life in general) is to give, give, give and give before asking for anything in return. So, let’s begin:

  1. Brainstorm some names you could use on social media (for example, @blucollarprof)
  2. Search for which names are available on social networks:
  3. Select which social media accounts you will use:
    • It’s best to keep it to 2 or 3 accounts
    • Major social media accounts include:
      • Facebook
      • Twitter
      • LinkedIn
      • Pinterest
      • Instagram
      • Snapchat
      • YouTube
  4. Use the same profile image, background photo, link to your website, hashtags, and call to action for all channels.
    • Once you have your hashtags, do a search for those hashtags in each social media channel, observe other individuals and organizations that use that hashtag, and add them to your Ecosystem Reconnaissance database.
  5. Incorporate as many elements from your website (colors, images, tone of voice) into your social media profiles.
  6. Review this list of resources and this list of free social media tools.


It’s a big world. And, we’re trying to change it. But, none of us have enough time, energy or resources to do it alone. And, of course, there will be things we do not know how to do. Cannot do. Should not do. We need others. So, we harness our networks, persuade others to join us, and build a team to amplify our agency. Outside of our creativity it’s our most valuable asset.

  1. Build your Power Network
    • See this worksheet
    • See this database template


  • Launch Checklist (coming soon)
  • Sustain Checklist (coming soon)

Over the years, these are the resources I’ve turned to again and again:

When it came time to build the HTCTW Checklist, The Side Project Checklist was a lightning strike of inspiration.

Download a printable pdf version of the Garage Works Checklist:

  • The Full Version (what you see above)
  • Stripped Down Version (all the steps without the introductory text attending each section)

The Garage Works Checklist by Shawn Humphrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at