Finding Positive Deviants
Identifying Positive Deviants: those women and girls whose unique, perhaps nontraditional practices or behaviors enable her to overcome safety challenges more successfully than her neighbors who have access to the same resources and share the same risk factors. Guidebook and interview prompts attached below in case they're useful to anyone conducting interviews!
The Positive Deviance approach (
www.positivedeviance.org) is based on the premise that many solutions to community problems already exist within the community and just need to be discovered, tweaked, and disseminated. Because behaviors change slowly, most times the solutions discovered within a community are more sustainable than those brought into the community from the outside.
The Positive Deviance process taps into local wisdom and takes an “asset-based” approach based on the belief that in every community there are certain individuals (“Positive Deviants”) whose special, or uncommon, practices and behaviors enable them to find better ways to address issues than their neighbors who share the same resources and face the same risks.
In every community, be it the urban areas in the US, Manila, Addis Ababa, Cairo, or impoverished rural villages in Myanmar or Nicaragua, there are Positive Deviants. These Positive Deviants all demonstrate certain behaviors and practices which have enabled them to overcome formidable barriers and can be used to examine how some individual women use certain perhaps nontraditional practices to keep themselves safe.
Here’s how the positive deviance approach is different:
* People from outside of the community don’t bring in ideas to change a community’s culture. Instead, they ask the community to look for its own members who are having success. Those local ideas, by definition, are affordable and locally acceptable — at least to some people in the community. Since they spring from a community’s DNA, the community is less likely to feel threatened by these ideas and more likely to adopt them.
* The focus is not a community’s problems, but its strengths.
* People from outside the community don’t design a communication or training strategy to teach the idea. Outsiders can bring people in the community into one room, but local people design a way to spread the new behaviors.
* Local leaders are not the ones who come up with solutions. That is the job of everyone on the front line dealing with the problem. The leaders’ job is to facilitate the process of finding and spreading these solutions.
A detailed handbook is available
here - this is geared toward malnutrition, but the probing questions and guides can be easily adapted to women's safety. I'm interested in seeing whether this is useful for anyone conducting interviews in the field!