The Positive Deviancy and the Doer/Non-Doer tools both aim to identify families or individuals who practise a desired behaviour when many people do not and to find out what motivates them. These motivational factors can then be used to influence others.
Positive Deviancy is based on the observation that, in every community, some individuals or groups seem better at finding solutions to problems, despite having the same lack of resources or facing similar or worse constraints. For example, some people in resource-poor settings avoid malnutrition or choose to build a toilet. The Positive Deviancy approach tries to identify why and how they do this and uses the information to influence others. It involves careful listening and discussion with affected communities to identify solutions to problems using existing resources.
The Doer/Non-Doer technique similarly works with the principle that some people (though often a minority) practise a desired behaviour and others do not. Doer/Non-Doer analysis interviews both those who do and those who do not. A questionnaire is often used to identify which motivational factors are the most important for ‘doers’ compared to ‘non-doers’. The percentage difference between them reveals the most likely factors to be successful at influencing the non-doers and which ones should be stressed in communication strategies. Doer/Non-Doer is used in Social Marketing F.21, FOAM F.19, RANAS F.20, Barrier Analysis T.3 and various other WASH approaches.
The tools should be considered for use in an Assessment (chapter A ) but there may not be time for this kind of in-depth formative research in an acute situation. Positive Deviancy is arguably more collaborative and participatory than the Doer/Non-Doer survey and could be considered to be an approach, rather than a tool.
Both methods can be used in most settings and response phases but are not often a priority in the initial phase of an emergency. They require time and well-trained facilitators who have some familiarity with the method.
Involve different community members and work with groups so that they can learn from each other
Identify both those who practise a behaviour and those who do not through Observation [T.28] and discussion
Use probing questions and explore in-depth people’s practice and motivations using role-play, storytelling and pictures
Promote positive norms and focus on success through ongoing support and encouragement
Do not tell people what to do or criticise their practices
Do not use generic messages
Positive Deviancy has been used in various health care settings across the world to help staff identify how to lower infection rates in hospitals. It has also been used in nutrition programmes where it is known as ‘The Hearth Approach’. Involving staff in a collaborative process and investigation is more effective than the imposition of solutions. Save The Children used a Doer/Non-Doer survey in a Vanuatu nutrition programme in 2018 and found that non-doers believed that using unclean water to wash their hands would make their baby sick; as a result, they did not practise handwashing (and had trouble remembering the critical times for handwashing). Doers were more likely to feel that their husbands approved of them washing their hands.
CORE Group (2003): Positive Deviance / Hearth Materials: A Resource Guide for Sustainably Rehabilitating Malnourished Children
Kittle, B. (2017): A Practical Guide to Conducting a Barrier Analysis 2nd Edition, Helen Keller International
Save the Children (2018): First 1000 Days Project: Barrier Analysis Report and Social and Behaviour Change Strategy