Awareness of the term “positive deviance” is rising, as a way of solving tough problems by finding what already works. It’s been the topic of seminars for health leaders. It’s been frequently mentioned by Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS England, as part of a repertoire of approaches to front-line change, and by Jo Bibby in her Health Foundation Blog. It is the subject of a slide show by Bob Sutton, and gets a brief mention as a possible new option in a recent article about the limitations of quality improvement projects in the NHS by Prof Mary Dixon Woods and Graham P Martin.
There is, however, no available comparison of the various interpretations and applications of “positive deviance,” and some authors mix up the various conceptual frameworks. This article aims to put this right, and offer tips to leaders for implementation. Continue reading →
Jane Lewis and Dr Joanna Wilde ran a very successful workshop for the British Psychological Society in June. This introduced positive deviance (PD) to a wider audience of accredited occupational and organisational psychologists.
We highlighted the benefits of working in this way at a time when workplaces can feel increasingly pressured and toxic. True to the principles of positive deviance, it was an interactive session where participants worked on their own cases, mainly linked to staff (and volunteer) engagement, leadership and culture change. Jane acted as the “expert non-expert” and Joanna commented on the links between our experience and current thinking and theory. Her review helps to explain why positive deviance does work, and why it is particularly appropriate in the current climate. Continue reading →
Audrey Asamoah and Jane Lewis’s TEDx-style presentation at the Greater Manchester Police and Fire Services’ Social Policing Unconference showed how Hidden Insights® community facilitation delivers big behaviour change in unlikely places – most recently in a deprived part of North London. We shared some of stories and techniques – which enable both community members and professionals to move past “baggage” and suspicion and share hope, skills, leadership and aspiration in a very different relationship, learning life and work skills in the process.
Woodward Lewis have been training Haringey Council and partnership agency staff in using Hidden Insights to tackle problems and to build better, more collaborative relationships, within existing resources. The contract has just been extended into three new areas:
Helping the community to collaborate to address anti-social behaviour in Northumberland Park, N17
Helping vulnerable families to adjust to being more self-sufficient when leaving intensive support in N15 and
Helping young people leaving care to take responsibility and adapt to being more independent, with the support of personal advisers.
Hidden Insights® only works well if people on the frontline and/or in the community generate, and take responsibility for analysing, quantitative and qualitative data to track progress and achievement. This means that the measuring the impact of a project is an integral part of the Hidden Insights process. However the skills and practices required to identify, collect, analyse and present data can be new to people. They might even be counter-cultural or raise fears of being judged.
The first day of this year’s Change Leaders conference in Paris was devoted to positive deviance (PD) – an update on new case studies and what’s been learned since the sad passing of Jerry Sternin. Denis Bourgeois, one of the former programme directors of the Consulting and Coaching for Change master’s programme, cited PD’s development as an important innovation to come out of the programme. Denis described PD as a “crack in the wall,” opportunistic approach to change, rather than a “bulldozer” approach. But it’s not all “touchy-feely” as it is challenging and evidence-driven.
For the first time, representatives of nearly all the UK users of positive deviance met together in Westminster for a round-table debate on the value of positive deviance, and learning points from the exercises so far to carry forward into future projects.
We’ve had a busy couple of weeks with workshops. Sue Ritchie, of MutualGain, and Jane Lewis ran an introduction to using positive deviance for behaviour change for a group of officers and members in Cambridgeshire. This was provided under the auspices of the NESTA Creative Councils initiative, and Involve, the leading community engagement consultancy.
Jane Lewis and Sue Ritchie of Mutual Gain were invited to speak at the Asian Fire Service Association Conference on 17th and 18th November. Its theme was about making inclusion and human rights more than a tick-box exercise.
Its organiser, Shanti Waas of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services, had learned about PD at an LGID conference last year. Our session was about positive deviance and how it works well as an inclusive approach to solving difficult community problems. Sue explained her expertise in community engagement and what had attracted her to PD. She talked about common problems with community engagement and why she raised PD’s profile at the Home Office as a solution to these. This led to the national pilots being set up.
Jane took over 30 participants through a workshop to show how it has worked in Southwark to create a cohesive and diverse community group which is finding examples of young people who do not join gangs and investigating what they do, so that existing successful coping strategies, already working in Peckham for some families, can be learned and practised more widely. PD’s use for inclusive problem solving in organisations and for parenting issues were also discussed.
As well as being a very interesting conference, it was a warm and welcoming event, with an interesting cultural evening on the Thursday evening.