Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Positive deviancy - searching out the solution within an organisation or community

An interesting combination of words……a stunningly simple yet profound process of community change that has been implemented successfully around the world.   In a nutshell….when confronted with an intractable problem that is resistant to other change strategies…….recruit the community themselves to look within their community for those who have been successful despite having the same limitations of resources and opportunities as those who have not had such positive outcomes.  These are the positive deviants – the outliers who have discovered the solutions that the community needs…….ascertain their secrets by comparing their strategies to those used by others in the same situation, then provide opportunities for these positive deviants to teach their fellow community members.   Jerry and Monique Sternin pioneered this process in Vietnam working with communities whose children had extremely high malnutrition statistics.  

They mobilised a group of community nurses to record the weigh, height and age of all children in the community, and identified a number of children who were healthy than their peers.  By observing and exploring with these families they discovered that subtlety different practices, ie: their mothers added local fresh water scrimp into their cooking (equivalent to eating worms in NZ), fed the children less food more often (4 instead of 2 times per day) etc.   By implementing the above process they were able to demonstrate a 40% decrease in malnourished children in 1 year.    

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