A recent article in the Guardian by Jane Dudman gives a good introduction to the Positive Deviance model, a method of solving ‘intractable’ social and organisational problems through the principle that:
…in every community or organisation, there are some people who do better than others, even though everyone has the same resources. By finding how what works well, the whole community or organisation can implement improved practices.
A second article homes in on one example of how the Positive Deviance approach is being used to reduce antisocial behaviour in Gosport, Hampshire, by finding families where children behave well, discovering what they are doing differently, and how this can be copied by local parents.
The approach has some obvious similarities with Appreciative Inquiry – the focus on what is working rather than problems, looking for examples of positive exceptions, and the need to involve everyone so that they own the solutions.
The Positive Deviance Initiative has produced some accessible guides and tools downloadable from their web site, which are well worth a look for Appreciative Inquiry practitioners (NB if you found that the link to this site in the first Guardian article doesn’t work, you can use the one above). It also has case studies from many Positive Deviance projects around the world, such as the Maternal and Newborn Care project in Vietnam.
I particularly liked this quote from the Basic Guide to the Positive Deviance (PD) Approach:
“Act your way into a new way of thinking instead of thinking your way into a new way of acting”