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Positive Deviance Approach

Finally, I’d like to introduce positive deviance approach. To overcome diversity and inclusiveness challenges of vulnerable population, even in resource-limited settings. Some people can find better solutions to a program than their peers by using available resources, even if they are limited.
They are called positive deviance and this approach was introduced in a book called: “The Power of Positive Deviance” published in 2000. It is also has a website and you can find a keyword “assets based” in his explanation of positive deviance approach. It is also solution-oriented and community-driven. It enables the community to discover these successful behaviors and strategies and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned. The first case of the positive deviance approach is documented in Vietnam in the late 1980’s. And the undernutrition was a major public health issue in Vietnam, about 65% of children suffered from it. According to a national survey, and many donor agencies who were supporting the Vietnamese government.
However, most of the programs were just supplementing nutrition and vitamins, and no attention was given to comprehensive child care or hygiene or health seeking behaviors. And it tends to be run by researchers or outsiders. And the villages were the passive beneficiaries. And it did not result in sustainable successes. Donor agencies, they came, they fed, they left and nothing changed. This was a common problem. Not only in Vietnam, but in very many low and the lower middle income countries. Then an American NGO came to Vietnam. They started an undernutrition project. They first conducted a baseline survey. Like the national survey, 64% of children were undernourished. Usually, if you find this kind of program, you tend to focus on this 64%.
You try to know the reason why they are undernourished. But they didn’t do that. Instead they focused on the remaining 36% who were well-nourished. There were some rich people, they were the exception. They did a wealth ranking, and they classified into rich, regular, poor, and very poor. And even among very poor people, they could find well-nourished children; there were positive deviants. Then they searched why they were well-nourished despite living in poverty. What were their assets?

Dr. Jimba will introduce positive deviance approach for the vulnerable population. The positive deviance approach is an asset-based, problem-solving, and community-driven approach that enables the community to discover these successful behaviors and strategies and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned.

Some individuals can find better solutions to a problem than their peers despite facing similar challenges, having no extra resources or knowledge than their peers. These individuals are the positive deviants. Using the Undernutrition Project in Vietnam (1980s) as an example, Dr. Jimba explains the positive deviance approach. In the Undernutrition Project, the American NGO identified the positive deviants in the community to uncover potential assets.

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