Wisdom Discovery

Group Name: 
Amber Royster
Student / CHOICE Regional Health Network
Libby Weisdepp
CHOICE Regional Health Network
Harvesting Knowledge from Positive Deviants to Replicate Social Change

Local and global communities are faced with complex problems, requiring innovative solutions from out-of-the-box thinkers and agents of change. Pockets of "positive deviants" exist in communities large and small, and are already employing uncommon tactics to mitigate the complexities in every spoke of the social strata, and with great success. However, because positive deviants inhabit the far right tail of the performance curve (less than 2 percent of the population), they tend to keep their unorthodox behaviors sheltered from the general population. In order to capture and replicate knowledge that could prove to be revolutionary, these outliers must be identified and, a "discovery" process administered to harness what the rest of us don't know.


It's [year] and the community of [town] in Vietnam is afflicted with widespread malnutrition. Closer observation of this community revealed a small faction of completely healthy adults and children. How did they do it?

[Add Texas education system example here]

Positive deviancy is all around us, but how do you find it? How do you harness it? What good can it do? Complex societies...civic intelligence...replication...who??? Solutions already exist and are being deployed by individuals who go against the grain, and do not assimilate.

Barriers: political connections, power, assimilation

How does this build social capital?


Positive deviants are "individuals on the periphery of their organizations or societies who are far removed from the orthodoxies of mainstream change endeavors...[Their] uncommon practices and behaviors enable them to find better solutions to problems than others in their communities" (Pascale and Sternin, 74). The notion of positive deviancy stemmed from work done by [organization] around malnutrition in Vietnam in the [time]. A small grant was given to [organization] to conduct research in [name of town], which led to the discovery that while almost the entire community was malnourished, a small group of residents showed no effects. [Organization] observed this group, and realized they incorporated shrimp from the rice patties into their diet--a food that was viewed as "unclean" by the rest of the community. By honing in on and replicating this dietary practice, [organization] was able to eradicate malnutrition in the rest of the community.



Survey communities and organizations for those who are using unorthodox practices and behaviors to create social change, and identify them by name and expertise. Conduct Wisdom Discovery sessions to capture innovative ideas and knowledge from various social and professional spheres; e.g. "How to Do Great Case Management", "How to Sustain a Non-profit Organization", and "How to Conduct Effective Community Outreach".

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