Given that the current working culture amongst government bodies is what it is, it seems like it is only ever a matter of time before good people get exploited and even better ideas get stolen. And that is exactly what happened to DadsHouse, in what can only be described as an appalling act of plagiarism by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Our involvement in the story means that we can give first hand information and indeed evidence, if we are called upon to give it, of the events which led up to Bath and North East Somerset Council effectively taking DadsHouse’s “In Dad’s Shoes Exhibition” and making it their own – without so much as mentioning DadsHouse.

Researching Reform have been working in partnership with DadsHouse on the photographic exhibition, since January of last year (2012), which features single fathers and their children and the bond between parent and child. And it was in May 2012 that we approached a manager at Bath and North East Somerset Council to invite the council to take part in the exhibition.

Initially delighted to take part and eager to acquire sign-off from his team, communication between the manager and DadsHouse suddenly diminished post his meeting with his council colleagues. The manager even declined to attend the launch of the “In Dad’s Shoes” Exhibition, which was held in the House of Lords in June, the following month. Bath university who were also involved in the now infamous council exhibition on fathers also lost all interest in getting in touch.

So when the council published the exhibition on-line this month, notably through the Bath Chronicle and the Somerset Guardian, we were shocked to notice that not only had they stolen the “In Dad’s Shoes” blueprint which the council had been furnished with, (and subsequently tried to jiggle around, presumably in an effort to appear unrelated), but had also decided to use aspiring photographers to take the photos, which was exactly what DadsHouse was doing at the time.

So, what, in reality are the similarities between the council’s exhibition and DadsHouses’s? And what are the differences?

The similarities are startling: a photographic exhibition featuring fathers and their children, to highlight the bond between father and child and the importance of that bond. Using emerging photographic talent to take those photos within the local community. The community-based ethos of the “In Dad’s Shoes” project, which is so perfectly suited to Council remits. The value of fathers to children and the need to celebrate dads. The portable nature of the exhibition – featuring the photographs in different locations for further viewing and the use of the exhibition to highlight support services available to fathers.

And the differences? There aren’t many. Extending the exhibition to include male carers, not just fathers. That’s it.

Local Authorities who steal philanthropic organisations’ ideas should be held accountable. We are truly appalled by the way BathNES council have behaved. And we hope this will be a sounding bell for councils who try to steal from others in the future – this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.

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