Designing services with dads, for dads
Kent County Council

Designing services with dads, for dads


Challenges and opportunities

Sure Start centres are government-funded, pre-school centres that also provide help and advice on child and family health and parenting. As part of the larger development of the Social Innovation Lab for Kent (SILK), Engine worked on live projects with the Kent County Council (KCC) teams.

SILK and Engine worked with SeaShells, a Sure Start centre, to help them encourage and support fathers’ (and other male carers’) involvement in their children’s lives. We explored what kind of support fathers require and how SeaShells could provide it. As part of the larger engagement project, Engine designed a new service for fathers, a Go Community Card, which provided access and discounts to a range of activities dads and children could do together, tailored more to their needs and availability.

  • KCC fathers_sml

What we did

Engine and the SILK team began with research, idea generation and design development to engage a group of more than a dozen Sheerness fathers as collaborators throughout the project. We spent time with fathers before and during a series of active workshops to gain a detailed picture of their day-to-day activities, and highlighted both the useful and ineffective resources that they interact with.

We defined a set of fathers’ needs and used them to inspire the development of a series of on-site and off-site service proposals that SeaShells could deliver. We assessed the ideas with the dads and the SeaShells team and chose one to take forward for further development, the ‘Go Community Card’.

This process brought SeaShells staff into close contact with a group of local fathers and demonstrated their commitment to listening and responding. The team drew out key insights, such as fathers wanting similar services to what were being offered to mothers, except needing them delivered in ways more consistent with the lives of the fathers in terms of location, environment and schedules.

The project also served to identify larger areas of organisational change that would be beneficial for the delivery of better services for fathers. These included a series of proposals for father-friendly communication channels, feedback mechanisms, partners and promotions.


As well as helping SeaShells engage and co-develop service concepts with resident fathers, Engine delivered a project review to help communicate our development with the Social Innovation Lab and to draw out key learnings from engaging a cross-section of people.

We also created a service specification for the ‘Go Community Card’, a card and information resource for parents. Accepted by local businesses, this card saves parents money on transport, activities, purchases, lessons and rentals. The card is packaged with the delivery of frequent updates on activities happening locally, is simple to use and is supported by a network of partners and businesses selected by the fathers in the community.

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