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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Dads are doing it for themselves

As I've explored in previous blogs, our Innovator Showcase sessions at Nesta's The Future of People Powered Health event inspired the audience and speakers alike. 

In my first blog, I revisted Open Voice Factory and Walk With Path - two inspiring initiatives that are making a real difference to people's lives, while in my second blog I looked at the Cares Family.

Our final innovator slot was taken by Heather Henry, Project Manager at Unlimited Potential and Alex McCraw, a father and member of Salford Dadz - Little Hulton.

Unlimited Potential have been supporting a project called Dadly Does It whose aim was to find new ways to improve the wellbeing of disadvantaged fathers and to understand whether this can improve the wellbeing of their children. Salford Dadz was the first of Dadly Does It's pilot projects.

Salford Dadz

Heather introduced us to Salford Dadz - Little Hulton. The Salford Dadz initiative uses an asset based approach called positive deviance, which promotes the belief that, within a community with a given problem, there is always someone that has the solution.

The aim was to find fathers who have improved their wellbeing and to take the community on a journey of self discovery to help improve others.

Alex McCraw shared his journey over the last 3.5 years. Having suffered personal abuse as a child, he had struggled to go out and meet people, and interact with his own children, but since joining Salford Dadz, he told us how his life has changed.

Meeting other dads has enabled Alex to open up and discuss his troubles and worries, with people who listened and understood.

The progress

The transformation, for Alex, is remarkable; from standing up in front of 400 people at the event, to taking his kids to the park and saturday groups. What's more, he had just started his first job in 18 years. An amazing journey.

After having such an effect on the audience, I caught up with Alex about that he has been up to in the last couple of months, including how he was getting on with his job.

"Work is going well, albeit very hectic, but enjoyable," he said. "It's a pity it is due to end soon, but was a very good learning experience and a positive indication that I know I am ready for work."

He has also been busy at his children's school, helping other parents fundraise and plan events to support a SkillForce project, to help kids and parents improve their confidence and teach new skills.

Finally he told me about being an inspiration to his children:My son would like to grow up and do the type of work and things I do," he said. "He will experience this soon as he was chosen to represent the school at a small conference in Bolton, which he was both excited and nervous about.

"My youngest, who is six, is getting an award for participation in the SkillForce Prince William Award scheme, and my eldest has done amazingly well this year in school. So, overall, I am a very proud father.”

A big thank you to Alex for sharing his personal story with us all.

What next?

The Dadly Does It programme continues to do well in three neighbourhoods:

  • Salford Dadz - Little Hulton: continues to progress as an independent group, including running the regular Dads and Kids group on Saturday mornings and planning for a festival later in the year for the whole community.

  • Winton: plans are in train with local fathers to establish a Dadz Cycle Hub; bike maintenance is already under way.

  • Langley - they have formally launched their project with local fathers and families, with prizes for children who were winners in the Men Behaving Dadly competition.

Unlimited Potential are also supporting networking between the three neighbourhoods, as well as keeping local commissioners informed of progress and learning, with support from the Lankelly Chase Foundation.

Read more about the Dadly Does it programme supported by Unlimited Potential.  Email: [email protected]. You can watch the session from the Future of People Powered Health here.


Annette Holman

Annette Holman

Annette Holman

Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Annette worked in the Government Innovation Team at Nesta focusing on social action priorities, specifically on the Connected Communites and Second Half Fund.

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