Module 4


Starting a peer support involves thinking about the kinds of support that people need and how you can address them. Doing so requires attention to the needs and strengths of your organization, the target population you aim to serve, the peer supporters and what they need to provide support, and ideas about what peer support would look like in your setting. 


This could involve two people who support each other. This may be in a very informal context, for example two friends coming together to talk about a shared problem. In some cases of more formally organised one-to-one peer support, one person may have had some training, for example in mentoring skills. One person may also be further along their journey like supervisor / trainee. This may mean that one person may provide more support to the other at times.

The main objectives of this unit are:

  • To understand key points to note when organising peer support
  • Do’s and don’ts of peer support programme
  • To understand the need to create a peer support group
  • To understand who the peer group will serve

Approximate reading time for the module. Additional time is required for further reading is about 3 hours.


Activity worksheets.


As an organisation, when you are trying to create a peer support group, it is vital to understand the key objectives of the peer support group. This will help to guide the structure and quality of the group.
Starting a peer support program involves thinking about the kinds of support that people need, and how your programme can address those needs. Doing so requires attention to the needs and strengths of your organisation, the target population you aim to serve, the peer supporters and what they need to provide support, and ideas about what peer support would look like in your setting.

Starting or strengthening a peer support programme often goes through four phases, including:

  • Community and Organisational Readiness - such as assessing needs, obtaining stakeholders’ buy-in, and securing resources.
  • Program Development - planning peer support interventions, developing policy and procedures and recruiting and training peer supporters.
  • Program Implementation - reaching and engaging program participants, and monitoring and supporting peer supporters.
  • Evaluation - documenting the process, and identifying, evaluating outcomes/impact.


There is no single ingredient that is required or guarantees success, but following items will help to get over some of common barriers:

Get Buy-in

Identifying key people in the community / organisation that can support you in turning your dream into a reality will ultimately decide between success and failure of your programme. 

Group membership

Decide on the purpose of the Peer Support Group. Activity 1 worksheet will help you to think about who your group is for and what you would like members to have in common. How can you make the environment safe and appropriate for the service users.

For example: Peer support for women who have experienced abuse from men, taking place in a women’s centre where men are not allowed, or have restricted access to would be an important consideration when setting up this group.

Mapping your venue

Map out the venue. Is it practically suitable for your group. Activity 2 worksheet will help you to look at some common questions you will need to consider to ensure that the venue to accessible and appropriate for your target group.

Individuals must have choice and control on when and where they wish to access Peer Support Groups. They must feel they have ownership of the group.

Group agreement

For people to feel comfortable and safe, it is helpful to develop an agreement together. Ask the group members what they need to do to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable in the group. Ask group members to make suggestions and draw up the agreement in collaboration with the whole group. 

Example agreement can include: 

  • Confidentiality: whatever is shared in this room remain in this room
  • Be non-judgemental and respectful of each other. 
  • Switch off mobile phones.


Identify barriers that can prohibit individuals from accessing the peer group and possible solutions. Work with the group to find solutions collectively.

For example:

  • Problem: too many people in the room
  • Solution: split the people into smaller groups


Explore the leadership required in the group. Peer support can take many different forms. What peer support sessions look like in practice can vary greatly depending on the project and the setting. 

Are you looking at designated leadership role or could leadership responsibilities be shared amongst the group.

Volunteering allows people to offer their time but also benefit from the experience. Increasing access to volunteering gives more people the opportunity to give their time and expertise. This is even more crucial to people with disabilities, but providing access should be a universal goal across your volunteer program. 

Through research and global networking, there are few success factors for designing and managing a peer support program: 

  • Keep it simple - Remember that peer support is meant to ‘support’ individuals with identified issues. 
  • Avoid too many details of training - Although training is essential to grow volunteers, remember, key is knowing, listening, and being available. 
  • Ongoing support – Support in format of information and growth for peer supporters is key to ensuring that reciprocal learning is taking place.
  • A happier and healthier workforce. 
  • Higher retention of personnel resulting to decreased costs of recruiting and training new employees. 
  • Less sick leave, medical benefits and administrative expenses. 
  • A way of employees to know what support resources are available to them and their families. 
  • Enhanced job satisfaction.

Peer support groups are forever evolving. For this reason, it is important to constantly review the peer support group by getting feedback from the users to grow the group. This can be done in number of ways including simple evaluation questionnaires or feedback through general conversation at the end of each session.

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Plan and launch a peer support group.
  • Identify do’s and don’ts of running a peer support group.


  • Developing peer support in the community toolkit:
  • The Health Foundation Q Improvement Labs are looking at ways to make peer support available to all:
  • The Inspiring Impact project provides helpful guides and example questionnaires to help small organisations measure their impact:
  • NCVO has shared almost 400 how-to guides which provide step-by-step guidance on a wide range of topics, including influencing local funders and commissioners. Their resources are free and you can even edit them, if you have a better idea to share:
  • Developing peer support in the community toolkit:




  1. Membership: Think about what your peer group should have in common.
  2. Not appropriate for: Think about those that will not be appropriate for your peer group e.g. husband / wife in domestic violence group
  3. Important consideration:  Discuss other characteristics that aren’t essential to join your group but are important to think about. You can use this space to explore any barriers that people may have to taking part.

Is the venue appropriate for your audience. Consider the following. Add others that would be relevant to your group.




The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein