Following the Dad Design Challenge, where I worked as the project lead, I was asked to share insights and my experiences at the recent All Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Fatherhood.
I had heard of the ‘APPGs’ before but I didn’t know who was involved, why they happened, or what value they have. I was happy to accept, as it’s a great opportunity to find out more and talk to people about our approach.
After accepting, I was asked whether I was nervous. This happened a lot. I was able to keep any nerves at bay by telling myself that; I was going to share something that I have lived through, so, there was nothing that I didn’t know. I was going in there as me; curious and ready to learn from the other people in the room. However, I reckon if I knew then I was going into what I call ‘The actual Parliament building’ I would have been a little more shaky.
I titled my six minute slice ‘Can design help increase the engagement of dads in their child’s early years?’. I reflected on 5 insights from working on the Knee High Design Challenge and the Dad Design Challenge.
1 Reframe. Rather than campaign with problems, promote the opportunities.
2 Start with human experience. You are not the expert. Allow your assumptions to be challenged.
3 The answers are out there. People need to know someone else believes in them.
4 Test ideas quickly and iteratively. Don’t be precious about ideas, allow them to be re-shaped.
5 Recognise barriers intrapreneurs face and help them overcome them. Even experts need support to gain a new perspective.
I concluded with a yes. Yes design can help increase the engagement of dads in their child’s early years, but we need more than just designers, we need, – real people living it, people who are passionate about change and who are brave enough to flip what already exists on its head. We need the people with the influence to imbed new ways of delivering services.
The entire experience was quite overwhelming. The security checks, the large stained glass windows, the police and protesters outside, and the huge grand halls, Hogwarts type staircases, big leather chairs and wood paneling, a room full of listening ears and nodding heads chaired by Mr David Lammy MP.
During the talks and questions, I picked up on a thread of discussion… ‘The system’. The system being; one-size-fits all, too slow, matriarchal, not open to change, not digital enough, over stretched and inefficient.
YES. I nodded. But what I was really wanted someone to say was, “Ok so what can we do about it?” or “What is the future?”
I could sense the energy and collective brain power in the room starting to get going, but almost as soon as the meeting really began there were noses poking through the door and we were all shuffled out. As we were gathering our coats and bags, the chairman promised that he would write a couple of letters to his peers to prompt discussions on a couple of the things raised.
“OH?” I thought. That can’t be it!
All these people gathered together, and the outcome is just a couple of letters? Maybe they will lead to something. But I left feeling a little dejected and confused. Together we had agreed that we all thought the current system was somewhat flawed, however the outcome of this important meeting was to go back into the system to try and influence political figures. Not being used to this type of meeting, perhaps I was missing the point. However, I know that one minute I felt excited and engaged in possibility, and so soon after the cause has suddenly been passed to someone else, to become their responsibility.
Despite my disappointment with the conclusion, I was able to speak with lovely familiar faces, and met some exciting and interesting new people. I have since been in touch with academics and researchers, online forums and national charities, who have all been interested in a more creative approach to new ways of thinking about how to tackle tough issues in society.