From the Inside Out: Uncovering Solutions to Intractable Problems Through Positive Deviance

Venue: Metro-Central YMCA

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Event Date/Time: Nov 03, 2005 End Date/Time: Nov 04, 2005
Early Registration Date: Sep 15, 2005
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Positive Deviance, an approach developed over the past fourteen years, demonstrates that isolated examples of success can be tapped to benefit an entire community or organization. Accomplishing this requires a radical departure from “benchmarking” and “best practice” strategies of change.

Plexus Institute and Leading Edge Seminars Inc. invite you to explore Positive Deviance (PD) with Jerry and Monique Sternin, leading PD authorities and pioneers, and join with others who are searching for solutions to some of the critical social and organizational challenges facing us today.

The PD approach builds on successful but “deviant” (different) practices that are identified from within a community or organization. It is based on the observation that in every group there are certain individuals whose uncommon but demonstrably successful practices or behaviours enable them to find better solutions than their neighbours or colleagues who have access to exactly the same resources. Its use was pioneered in developing countries and has led to sustainable improvements in seemingly intractable organizational and social issues. Some successes are:
- Sustained 65 – 80 percent reduction in childhood malnutrition in communities with 2.2 million people in Vietnam
- Sustained reduction in childhood malnutrition in 41 countries around the world
- Successful advocacy against female circumcision in Egypt and thousands of averted genital mutilations
- Reduction in neo-natal mortality and morbidity in Pakistan and Vietnam
- Increased condom use among commercial sex workers and intravenous drug users in Vietnam, Burma, and Indonesia
- 45 – 50 percent increase in student retention in schools in poor communities in Argentina and enhanced educational outcomes in US schools
- Documented reduction in girl trafficking in poor villages in East Java, Indonesia

The Harvard Business Review features PD in its May 1, 2005 edition. The approach has also begun to penetrate the corporate consciousness. It was employed at Goldman Sachs and was instrumental in transforming the behaviour and practice of its nationwide force of investment advisors. It has been used to tackle gnarly technical challenges at Hewlett Packard, and hospitals have begun to use PD to address quality improvement challenges. And a PD workshop was just held at the January 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos.

PD is unlike traditional expert-driven models for social and organizational change. Like the human immune system, individuals and institutions reject what is perceived as “foreign matter”. When “experts” provide “best practice” strategies for organizational changes, which are externally identified, and “not invented from within”, they face rejection. The PD approach provides an antidote to the immune system defense mechanism; the solution and the host share the same “DNA” and the change comes from within. Those in a community or organization are helped to discover the positive deviants in their midst, understand the strategies they employ, and then create among themselves a process for enrolling the larger community in the desired change. Change is from inside out.

This workshop will provide an overview of how and where PD has been successfully used to address problems requiring social or behavioural change. All participants will learn the four steps of the PD process design to nurture a PD–based change initiative on an issue of importance to them.

Intended Participants
Have you been frustrated with the “best practice” or “expert driven” approaches to change? Are you committed to doing something about problems faced by your organization or community that have resisted previous improvement efforts? Have you noticed that many of these problems do not to affect 100% of the community or group? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then this workshop is for you and your colleagues.

The sponsors of this workshop seek to attract a diverse group of participants from sectors such as social service, healthcare, international development, community organizations, business, and government, who are searching for more workable and lasting approaches to community and organizational change. Participants are encouraged to attend with colleagues, bring a specific change challenge, and be prepared to work on a specific PD change project.


20 Grosvenor Street

Additional Information

This two-day workshop is preceded by a one-day workshop called An Introduction to Complexity Science: Implications for Organizations, Communities, & Leadership. Visit our website for more information.