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DadSource: A crowdsourcing project to expand understanding and increase support for men across the transition to fatherhood

DadSource is a crowdsourcing project to gather information about the transition to fatherhood and connect expectant and new fathers.

Photo of Tova
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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Meeting with my mentor, Jason Rissman, was tremendously helpful. I bring academic and professional expertise in the areas of parenting and early child development. Jason offered very valuable perspective rooted in his expertise in human centered design and design thinking. Our conversation has deepened my thinking about the importance of an iterative process of development with extensive feedback from users. Jason led me to envision personas of prototypical users and consider how DadSource would meet their needs. For example, a 24 year old single dad focused on continuing his education would need information and support relevant to his role as primary caregiver and the time constraints he faces as parent, student, and sole income earner.

I've begun bringing together a team that includes folks with technical expertise in web design, graphic design, and human centered design, as well as diverse fathers to help inform development of the site to best meet the needs of fathers with a variety of risks and strengths.
After publishing my idea, I heard from a number of people interested to partner in various ways. One exciting contact was from someone interested in helping to disseminate dadSource through her state’s early care and child welfare networks. She wrote: "This is such an innovative resource. Down the line we’d love to help disseminate through the state’s early care and child welfare networks - we directly train both."

I also connected with fellow Prize applicant ACEV. They are proposing to expand their First6Years app to reach specific populations of fathers in the US and Turkey. We share a commitment to supporting early development by making information, support and resources accessible to disadvantaged fathers. We are excited to partner to bring our ideas together. The First6Years app could be made available to fathers through the DadSource website and vice versa.

Our team has advanced our concept in preparation for prototyping, identified multiple organizations serving diverse populations of fathers from which to recruit pilot users and eventually users, and begun to identify and address important strategic questions, including:
--which platforms should DadSource be with? for example, would dads like to connect to text messaging to input questions?
--with which sectors and agencies can we partner to promote DadSource and reach diverse fathers? (our ideas include health systems, and specifically pediatricians; businesses, particularly those that provide goods and services to children / families; influencers, such as prominent father athletes.

We have identified multiple challenges associated with our project and begun to strategize how best to address these challenges to maximize the success of our effort and eventual impact. These challenges include:
developing name / brand (is DadSource the right name? it underscores research mission but not support mission)
user adoption
technical development
understanding users
scaling up

Among the solutions we have identified is engaging a Rutgers MBA class to work with us on marketing strategy.

Based on my experience developing technology for fathers and my research on the education and support needs of dads, I'm confident that the DadSource platform will meet an important need. I'm excited to be moving forward. Based on an excellent suggestion from my mentor Jason Rissman, one immediate next step will be to develop an advisory board, including at least one member who has developed a great app for men in a different domain. Another is to work with students on my campus who are studying human centered design to create a user experience map and begin designing the site. Finally, I am looking forward to co-creating the platform with intended users. We have begun to assemble a team of diverse fathers, including low-income fathers who face particular barriers to accessing parenting support, to be part of this process with us.

Name or Organization

This submission is offered by Tova Walsh, assistant professor at Rutgers University School of Social Work, in partnership with colleagues with expertise in social work, communication and information, human centered design.


New Brunswick, NJ, USA

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD


  • University

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Children with involved, caring fathers have better social, emotional, and educational outcomes. Despite the importance of fathers to child development, parent and family support programs have struggled to engage fathers. DadSource will illuminate men’s experiences and support needs across the transition to parenthood and inform the design of "dad-friendly" services -- services that are relevant, timely, and respectful of fathers' specific circumstances and needs. DadSource will make resources available to expectant and new fathers, and provide a platform for connection and community.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Positive father involvement contributes to positive developmental outcomes and attenuates risk for children. However, parent and family support programs have struggled to engage fathers generally, and low-income fathers in particular. DadSource aims to increase knowledge of men's experiences and needs for support in the transition to fatherhood, increase social support for expectant and new fathers, and inform improved services for fathers, ultimately leading to increased positive parenting and improved developmental outcomes for children.

In designing and promoting DadSource we will engage widely diverse fathers and seek to learn about the distinct experiences, strengths, and challenges faced by diverse fathers parenting in different type of communities and across diverse family structures. DadSource has the potential to benefit diverse fathers and families and inform the next generation of parent and family support programs to better meet the needs of diverse fathers and families.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

In the realm of parent and family support research and practice, fathers have historically been under-studied and under-served. Programs struggle to engage fathers in services, particular low-income fathers who may be highly motivated parents but face barriers to program participation. DadSource will increase knowledge about men's experiences and needs for support in the transition to fatherhood, enhance support for expectant and new fathers, and inform improved services for fathers.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Inspired in part by PregSource (, a crowdsourcing research project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that aims to gather information about pregnancy, I propose to build a platform called DadSource to gather information from expectant and new fathers about their experiences, their health and wellbeing, their family relationships, their parenting strengths and challenges, their parenting behavior, and the health and wellbeing of their infants, toddlers, and young children. Increased understanding of men's experiences, behaviors, and support needs as expectant and new fathers will help to inform improved services for fathers and families.

The DadSource platform will fulfill a research mission and it will also fill a need for social support for new and expectant fathers. The platform will allow for communication and exchange of experiences and ideas among new and expectant fathers. While there are many online fora for parents, there are few dedicated spaces for fathers, and none that focus specifically on expectant and new fathers and provide reliable information about an array of topics of interest to expectant and new fathers.

The platform will include a searchable database of relevant resources, including information about fathers and fathering, child development, how to support a healthy pregnancy, how to be a good partner during and after pregnancy, how to care for and play with infants, toddlers, and young children at different stages of development. The platform will be designed to be readily accessible and visually appealing, and will provide information via multiple media (audio, video, pictures, text). The platform will also feature information about programs and services for infants, toddlers, young children, fathers and families, searchable by location.

DadSource will be designed to acknowledge, include, learn from, support and honor the great diversity of fathers in the contemporary United States. DadSource will directly benefit fathers who make use of their platform and their young children. Additionally, DadSource will indirectly benefit many more fathers and children through its contribution to knowledge on fathers' experiences and support needs early in their parenting trajectory. Data reported by father-users of DadSource will be aggregated and analyzed with the specific goal of improving services for expectant and new fathers and their families, so that fathers, in particular those with limited resources, are supported to be the best parents they can be and support their children's early development.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

1. The beneficiaries of my idea are fathers and families. New and expectant fathers will have access to information and support that will benefit themselves, their children and families. Fathers will be contributors as well as beneficiaries. Through their engagement with the DadSource platform, they will contribute to knowledge on fathers and fathering and lend support to other fathers.

2. For the past ten years, I have done research with fathers and families, developed and tested interventions for fathers and families. My research has involved nationally representative samples of fathers across the US, as well as particular populations of fathers including low-income fathers and fathers in military-connected families.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The impact of this idea will be multi-tiered. First, DadSource users may benefit directly from connecting to social support and accessing information about parenting and child development; in turn, their young children may benefit from improved parenting. Second, information gathered through DadSource about men's experiences across the transition to fatherhood, the challenges they face, and their support needs will be applied to enhance parent and family support programs. By increasing the "father friendliness" of these programs, DadSource will help programs to more effectively recruit and retain fathers in services, and participation in services may enhance fathering and child developmental outcomes.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

A growing body of research demonstrates that positive father involvement supports positive developmental outcomes for children. However, parent and family support programs have generally not been able to effectively engage low-income fathers, who face particular structural and economic challenges.

DadSource will build understanding of the experiences, challenges, and strengths of diverse fathers, including low-income fathers. This will inform the next generation of parent and family support support programs to better serve low-income fathers and families.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

This concept offers a new approach to engage an under-served population: low-income fathers.
There are relatively few existing parenting interventions designed for and tested with fathers. Stigma associated with help-seeking may prevent fathers from accessing existing services. There is research to show that technology-based parenting interventions with mothers are effective, yet there are very few technology-based approaches have been designed for and tested with fathers. DadSource holds promise for extending service provision to an under-served population, including specific at-risk groups of fathers, such as teen fathers, who might be disconnected from services but well connected to technology. By providing information and support to fathers themselves and informing the efforts of service providers to engage fathers, DadSource will contribute to the well-being of fathers and their young children.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

DadSource will consist of an online platform, available to anyone with internet access. Once the platform is built, the greatest challenge to reaching a significant number of end-users will be identifying the best strategies for reaching fathers in diverse communities. The potential market size is vast, as nearly 4 million babies are born in the US each year.

Through strategic marketing, we will work to make DadSource known to fathers across the country in diverse communities, and encourage early users to promote the platform to other potential users. We will work with an MBA class to do marketing research and develop marketing strategy.

DadSource will have an impact through data (providing lessons learned about fathers and their children to academic & service communities who will be able to better do their work) as well as direct benefit to participating dads. We will explore partnerships with health systems, health insurance companies, businesses, and other sectors to reach more fathers and disseminate knowledge about how to support fathers, young children, and families.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

I have identified partners with the necessary expertise to collaborate to advance the idea, and we have a growing team. Next steps are to secure funding and define roles and responsibilities, action steps, a budget, and an appropriate timeline. I believe this idea is feasible and viable from a technical and operational perspective, and I have identified foundations with funding priorities that align with this project and could be approached for financial support.

To ensure successful development and adoption of DadSource, our team will assemble an advisory board and consider and address these risks:
developing name / brand
user adoption
technical development
understanding users
scaling up

We will engage a Rutgers MBA class to work on marketing strategy, students in the Design Thinking program to improve our concept with us and help us create great visuals. We will work with father-users to ensure the appeal of our platform and content.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Rather than thinking of DadSource as a business model with services that could be monetized, we are focused on creating a sustainable model that allows this resource to be available free to all fathers.

We will work with an MBA class on developing a long-term business plan and on marketing strategy. We have some initial funds in support of this work, are seeking additional grants to build the DadSource platform and enter the market, and envision strategic partnerships to facilitate long-term sustainability.

Following the model of Text4Baby (, we hope to partner with the health sector and private sectors to make this resource available at no cost. By partnering with health systems or health insurance companies, we could make this resource available to a great number of people and further our mutual interest in promoting the optimal health and development of young children.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

The resources and toolkits provided by OpenIDEO and conversation with my mentor Jason Rissman have expanded my understanding and appreciation for human centered design. I am excited to work with students in our Design Thinking program to bring a human centered perspective to our work. We will co-create the DadSource platform with intended users, working iteratively to gather and incorporate feedback from diverse fathers. Design Thinking students will help with user interviews, developing personas, and crafting a platform that is responsive to the interests, needs, and preferences of our users.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

I have been involved in the development of two apps for fathers, one for low-income fathers and one for military-connected fathers, both intended to enhance father engagement and enhance the wellbeing of infants, toddlers and young children. I'm currently an assistant professor of social work at Rutgers University and an affiliate of the Center on Violence Against Women & Children at Rutgers and the Institute for Research on Poverty at University of Wisconsin-Madison. I received a PhD in the combined program in Social Work and Psychology at the University of Michigan. My research has focused on pregnancy and parenting, prevention of violence against women and children, and father involvement, and on understanding processes of risk and resilience across diverse communities and contexts. My training and research have been supported by a Kellogg Fellowship for Children & Families, a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Wellbeing and Prevention of Child Maltreatment, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. I have always held a special interest in families in the transition to parenthood and with infants and young children. I'm dedicated to working with diverse and underserved populations, and focus on the support needs of mothers and fathers who face barriers to maintaining strong relationships with their young children, including parents who face repeated and often extended separations from their young children due to military deployment. I've worked on multiple projects encompassing the development of mobile technology to promote positive parenting and strengthen parent-child relationships. I teach masters of social work students on interventions with children, youth and families, violence and abuse in childhood, and human behavior and the social environment. In my teaching I emphasize the the centrality of the caregiving environment in early development, long term impact of early adversity, and the opportunity to promote growth in the parent-child relationship and support healthy development through appropriate intervention. I have also provided training on father engagement for home visitors and social service providers.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

I have partners here at Rutgers University with diverse expertise, and partners to reach and recruit local fathers to offer feedback on the beta version of the platform. I would like the platform to reach and be accessible and appealing to fathers across the country, parenting in diverse family structures and diverse communities. It would help to have partners who work with new and expectant fathers in diverse contexts to offer their own input on this project and help engage diverse fathers as partners.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

I need partners to work with me on designing the platform that will constitute DadSource. DadSource will encompass space for expectant and new fathers to share information about their experiences, the challenges they face, and the strengths they bring to parenting, and exchange support with other fathers; and resources for expectant and new fathers to support preparation for parenthood and efforts to promote children's optimal development.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

As a researcher myself, I would like mentoring support to bring together a group of fathers, service providers to fathers, and other community partners to work together to build DadSource, increase parenting knowledge and social support for fathers, and improve the well-being of their young children.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Tova Walsh is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and a faculty affiliate of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children and the Institute for Digital Innovation in Social Work at Rutgers. Her research reflects her commitment to working with vulnerable families to support emerging competencies in early parenthood, promote nurturing parent-child relationships, and prevent childhood exposure to violence.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

I had a skype call with Jason Rissman and his guidance was tremendously helpful. In particular, he brought a human centered perspective to the DadSource concept and helped me identify opportunities to engage intended users, students of Design Thinking, and other partners to expand and enrich the concept, increase feasability and sustainability, and maximize the impact of DadSource in terms of:
-promoting low-income children's social, emotional, and educational development
-increasing involvement and parenting efficacy among low-income dads
-improving the work of service providers that is held back by lack of knowledge about how to effectively engage fathers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Liuliu Yan

It is a wonderful idea to take fatherhood into consideration in early childhood. But unlike women, men usually not willing to spend time on this kind of information. It can be a challenge to attract men pay attention to this activity. But if it works, it can be a very huge development.

Photo of Carlton Chen

Tova, those are great ideas to continue to engage users. I have a specific thought in mind to use a real person to engage in the messaging. Simple Therapy is a service used to provide subscribers with self-help exercises in lieu of physical therapists and they have Emily and Randy as regulars to do the training. Check it out on their Web. Perhaps we can collaborate when we at Sammi Pillows get the results of our sleep study. Kind regards, Carlton

Photo of Iliriana Kacaniku

Dear Tova 

Welcome to the Early Childhood Innovation Prize. We're thrilled to host your idea and help it grow through our human-centered design approach and toolkits. I enjoyed reading your idea and learning about your focus to support fathers during their parenting duties. I believe your extensive experience with parents has led you to this solution, and I am curious to learn more about your insights. Traditionally, fathers have been less engaged in parenting, especially during the early childhood, and mothers were the primary educator of the child in the family. Did you have a chance to research the impediments to fathers' increased engagement in parenting in the recent years? If so what would be the most dominant ones, and how do they differ between levels of income. In the meantime, I have couple of friends who are full-time working mothers and their husbands are the primary care-providers for their children. As this trend may increase, the resources for fathers will become more necessary, and I'd be curious to learn would a web-based, mobile- or another platform serve the information and education purpose the best? Prototyping and testing the solution at an early stage will provide valuable insights on how to evolve it effectively. For guidance, check the Prototyping toolkit we've shared with you, We'd be keen to learn about your discoveries.

Any thoughts?

Best regards,

Photo of Tova

Thank you for these thoughts! Fathers' engagement in parenting is increasing, though on average mothers still spend substantially more time caring for children. Across income levels, the relationship between parents is the biggest predictor of father involvement; when the relationship is acrimonious, fathers tend to be less engaged in parenting. Fathers at higher income levels are more likely to have access to parental leave and flexible schedules that allow more time for engaging with children; schedule and time constraints present a greater barrier for low-income fathers. I do think fathers who are primary care providers would be well served by a web-based or mobile platform to provide information and education. Across income levels, the web is a go-to source of information for many people. A web-based or mobile platform providing relevant and reliable parenting information would be a meaningful resource for fathers who are primary caregivers, and presents an easy way for them to access information while on the move and active with their children. Thanks for providing link to prototyping toolkit!

Photo of Molly Alexander

I am very interested in following your project as it develops! I think your focus and your approach are both exciting. Understanding the needs of new fathers will go a long way toward better serving all parents, children, and families.

Photo of Tova

Thank you Molly!

Photo of Carlton Chen

I like your idea a lot, Tova, but was wondering how you might provide incentives for expectant fathers and new fathers to participate in your crowdsourcing platform. My sense that it would be difficult to sustain continued participation by the same father users even though your platform provides useful information.

Photo of Tova

This is a great question, thanks Carlton. My idea is that fathers would register to use the site and as part of registration they'd provide info about their child's age or due date and consent to receive periodic emails with timely and relevant info. A father who first registered and used the app when his baby was 5 months old would get an email when his baby reached six months of age with a "teaser" of brief information about developmental milestones ahead for his 6 month old baby. The email would include link back into the site for more detailed information. The idea would be to pique fathers' interest and highlight timely information available to them through the site on an ongoing basis.

Photo of Rita Hindin

Once a creative, innovative, yet straightforward idea is articulated, we all say Yes, well of course. DadSource is just such a strategy and program!

Photo of Tova

Thank you!

Photo of Emily Bosk

This is an incredibly innovative idea. In my clinical work with families, I know it can be hard to engage dads. This project would meet a critical need for families and those of us who work with them.

Photo of Tova

Thank you! This project is inspired by the recognition that we who work with families have much to learn about how to effectively engage dads, and that better engaging dads has the potential to benefit their children and families.

Photo of Tiffany Green

I think that engaging fathers is a really important and overlooked pathway for improving the outcomes of children and their families. I'm really excited to see the end result of this project!

Photo of Tova

Thank you!

Photo of Theresa McCutcheon

An innovative and responsive approach to connect fathers during the most formative years. A strong vehicle for building foundational relationships that are critical to supporting developmental and educational outcomes.

Photo of Tova

Thank you!

Photo of Emily

There is a father-to-be in my extended family who would immediately benefit from and use a resource such as this. I could see how it would be helpful not only to him and his unborn child, but also to his loving partner--giving her peace of mind that they are both diving into this transition all the more together. I really hope this great idea comes to fruition and fast!

Photo of Tova

Thank you! I see this idea as a way to benefit mothers as well as children and fathers themselves. I agree with you about the importance of helping expectant parents feel that they are fully in this transition together, Through DadSource I hope to provide fathers-to-be and fathers with information and support to be positive partners as well as parents.

Photo of gretel1717

A much-needed focus for child well-being. Research on how the father's role impacts child development is integral to understanding how to improve outcomes. DadSource will assist in supporting competencies for fathers and promote better relationships between them and their children.

Photo of Tova

Thank you!

Photo of ACEV (Mother Child Education Foundation)

Hello Tova !  Great to see a researcher on this platform sharing our vision of involved fatherhood for early childhood development! I think our innovative ideas align very well: They intend to address the same needs and bring the same innovative approach by reaching out to families in need and empowering FATHERS to support early childhood development. ACEV (Mother Child Education Foundation) and Promundo both have long standing work with fathers and men. For this Prize we are collaborating to bring AÇEV's mobile parenting app with a father (Baba+) component to the U.S. to work specifically with Latino fathers. Like you, we also intend to create a platform for fathers to interact and share, while getting the help and information they need. We would be very happy if you took a look at our application and share your thoughts, maybe ideas for collaboration? Here is the link to our idea:

Photo of Tova

Thank you for your comment! I just read about your exciting idea and left an extended comment there. I hope we can find a time to talk soon!