In writing these notes, I am hinting to myself about some areas to explore in the future, based on the understanding that to not just influence systems change, but bring about new paradigms to work and live in, we need new forms of practice not just different methods and techniques.
New practices need to focus both on internal states, as well as external relationships and actions, as our challenges in this coming decade are vast, and centered around collective action on large complex challenges. It isn’t enough just to be working on my personal practice, we need to be forging new spaces for rapid changes in practice for large groups of people.
These are elements of practice I want to work on more:
Listening and adapting
Deep nature observation
Focus on enabling collective action
Move at speed of trust
Inquiry Driven (make to understand)
I also aim to further explore several methods which I feel may offer potential for the kind of practice I hope to embody in the future.
The idea behind Positive Deviance is one which is rooted in the belief that “in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges”.
This approach has pedigree as an approach to social innovation activities, backed by explorations like Creative Communities (Meroni, 2007 ), Future of Fish (Dahle et al, 2017 ), and the DOTT Festival (Thackara, 2016 ).
There has also been some work on this concept from the conservation sector (Post & Geldmann, 2018 ) which studied Tiger Reserves and Coral Reefs for positive outliers of success, and then sought reasons for this. They found the presence of exceptionally committed people (“conservation champions”) was a commonality in the reserves case, and in the case of Reefs, that “levels of engagement with local communities are high and sociocultural governance institutions are present”. They highlight the need for extensive surveying and interviewing as part of the process for surfacing and investigating the positive deviants in a community.
Exploring the positive deviants active across Australia and New Zealand could be a whole research project in itself, however if it had been embedded from the beginning of the project, it could have been something asked about in every interaction with stakeholders - yielding a surface scan of who is a positive outlier, and worth contacting for further research.
Introduced initially to this area through Liz Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers work on the Convivial Toolbox, I feel there is much more to be explored for generative research at the front end.