Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Positive Deviance…Positive Deviance? Positive Deviance!

By Sandra Ramirez

This term, “positive deviance” (PD) is a new one for me.  Many of the people in this class have an idea of what PD is from a previous course.  I’ve never heard it used in a sentence.  I’ve never seen it on TV.  I’ve never witnessed it acted out.  Am I at a disadvantage?  Maybe it’s beneficial for me to approach PD with a completely positive and open mind.

While I was contemplating, I did what I usually do when I don’t know what something is…I Googled it.  Naturally, the first link I clicked on was Wikipedia.  It’s hardly the pinnacle of accuracy, but more often than not, it serves its purpose.  Here’s the Wikipedia definition, complete with an example:

Positive Deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change based on the observation that in a community, there are people (Positive Deviants) whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite having no special resources or knowledge.

The concept first appeared in nutrition research in the 1970s. Researchers observed that despite the poverty in a community, some poor families had well nourished children. Some suggested using information gathered from these outliers to plan nutrition programs.
Ok…that doesn’t seem to difficult to absorb.  Let me consider the key words to take away from this definition:

Social change
Positive Deviants
Uncommon/Successful behaviors
These are all very motivating and empowering words.  Suddenly, I want to be a Positive Deviant and change the world.  Or maybe I should take the advice from Davi’s post and start on a smaller scale.  While I’m still in my 20’s I can start by changing myself; maybe like Jorge suggested by being more mindful of my interactions with other people.  His post reminded me of what the priest at my church said during the holidays.  Father Joe’s sermon was about the chaos of holiday shopping.  There’s tons of traffic, no parking spaces, the stores are crowded and you can never find the item you’re looking for in the disaster that has been made of the once neatly stocked shelves.  So amidst this chaos, we make our way into the stores and not only DEMAND that the employees IMMEDIATELY help us with what we need, but we COMMAND that they do so politely.  We don’t consider that they’ve probably been on their feet all day, and all holiday season, dealing with hundreds if not thousands of equally RUDE and INCONSIDERATE customers.  So what makes us as consumers somehow superior to the employees?  “Absolutely nothing!”  says Father Joe.  That was his point.  You can easily ruin someone’s day with impolite and disrespectful behavior…or you can choose to be courteous and humble with your requests.  Your behavior could easily make their day, or at the very least make their day bearable.  

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