The Concept of Positive Deviance (PD)
Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers.
What is the Positive Deviance Approach?
The PD approach is a strength-based, problem-solving approach for behavior and social change. The approach enables the community to discover existing solutions to complex problems within the community.
The PD approach thus differs from traditional "needs based" or problem-solving approaches in that it does not focus primarily on identification of needs and the external inputs necessary to meet those needs or solve problems. A unique process invites the community to identify and optimize existing, sustainable solutions from within the community, which speeds up innovation.
The PD approach has been used to address issues as diverse as childhood malnutrition, neo-natal mortality, girl trafficking, school drop-out, female genital cutting (FGC), hospital acquired infections (HAI) and HIV/AIDS.
Quotes that embody the essence of PD:
"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves."
~Lao-Tzu Tao Te Ching
"We dance around in a circle and suppose while the truth sits in the middle and knows."