Should Positive Deviance be my next Big Thing?

I’ve been mulling this over for a while now, and thought I’d consult the FP2P hivemind, following a few initial conversations, including one earlier this week with Oxfam’s Irene Guijt and some PD fans at the Said Business School (here’s their rather good report of a PD conference back in 2010, from which I nicked the box comparing PD with the ‘standard model’).

First some background: The starting point of PD is to ‘look for outliers who succeed against the odds’ – the families that don’t cut their daughters in Egypt, or the kids that are not malnourished in Vietnam’s poorest villages. On any issue, there is always a distribution of results, and PD involves identifying and investigating the positive outliers, and seeing if/how the lessons of how they did better than the rest can be spread. In the famous case in Vietnam, identifying slightly different feeding practices in outlier households led to big nutritional improvements for millions of kids.

This differs from the ‘standard model’ of aid in two big ways: it focuses on success, not failure/problems – places where the system has thrown up solutions to a given problem – and it replaces, or at least minimises, the role of ‘external interventions’ such as aid projects. Bye bye White Saviour complex/salvation by outsiders. For that alone, I love it!

So is this something I should work on? There’s not much point in just writing a book about PD – it would be pretty impossible to improve on the wonderful Power of Positive Deviance. Instead, what I have in mind is some kind of attempt, by Oxfam or a group of organizations, to put PD into practice and see what happens.

In many ways, this would be a natural extension of systems thinking and adaptive management: outsiders keen to promote positive change hold back from jumping in with their projects and devote time and resources to identifying the positive outliers on whatever issue they are interested in.

Then what? PD purists argue for ‘social learning’: the role of outsiders is only as facilitators, helping local people

identify the outliers and learn from them. That bumps up against the political economy of the aid business – there’s no projects, nothing to raise money for, it’s just about supporting the few rare souls that have those subtle

PD v The Standard Model

skills of facilitation.

That may help explain why Positive Deviance is not itself a Positive Deviant – there is a Positive Deviance Initiative, linked to Tufts University, which is dedicated to spreading the PD message, (eg via this handy biannual newsletter, but it really hasn’t caught on, at least not in the aid business. If any organizations have put it into practice, I would love to hear about it.

So rather than see PD as a complete alternative, might it be better to use it to improve current practices? Eg using PD as a way to incubate new ideas (thanks Irene for that idea!) or a form of due diligence – any organization embarking on new work, whether in terms of theme or location, should start off with PD to see what is already working and why, no matter how limited the successful example is.

This suggestion may horrify the PD enthusiasts, who fear that ‘projectizing’ PD would destroy its true nature, and I have some sympathy with that, but how else can we bring such a brilliant idea into the mainstream?

When I’ve discussed PD with Oxfam colleagues, they’ve raised some other important concerns:

  • Isn’t PD essentially accepting the status quo (albeit the best bit of it)? Rather than transform society, we are going to spot families that feed their kids a bit better and spread the word. Does that come at the expense of more radical, structural change?
  • How to stop PD becoming a new fashion, with people sprinkling it over their documents but not really changing how they work? Already I’m seeing the term cropping up in more and more conversations and documents (a bit like ‘adaptive management’!)
  • A lot of people seem to think they’re doing it already. After all, a lot of the restaurant conversations in aid circles starts with ‘I saw this amazing thing happening in this village/organization’. What’s the difference between that and PD?
  • Does PD really only work with a large ‘n’ – a big population where you can identify a clear distribution and its outliers? Does that mean it can’t be used with small ‘n’ problems like advocacy?

I’m struggling here, and it’s a big decision for me – whether to spend a lot of time on this, or do something else. Would really welcome your thoughts.

Previous posts on Positive Deviance:

Spotting PD in Kenyan primary schools

Book Review: The Power of Positive Deviance

Applying PD to PNG (Papua New Guinea)

Researching PD within a big Oxfam Savings project

And here’s Monique Sternin, one of the founders of the PD movement:

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Comments

36 Responses to “Should Positive Deviance be my next Big Thing?”
  1. I think the topic is very interesting and I don’t have much prior knowledge about PD. I think the concerns raisde by your colleagues are important to consider but are no reason to discard PD as a potential mechanism for improvement and change. I just want to add my concern with PD which I have encountered in my work in South Africa. As you will be aware, South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world and large parts of the population live in dire poverty. I found that many people who are not interested to understand the root causes and backgrounds of for example poverty tend to use the PD argument to say – but you see Joe XYZ living in township x also made it. There is an underlying implication that it is the ‘fault’ or the problem of the others (the masses) that are poor. It has an undertone – if the one made it, why did the others not, isn’t it the other people’s laziness, stupidity, own fault?
    I hope I make sense. It is not an argument to not work with PD but when one does to ensure how it is approached and that one looks very carefully at the people who don’t fall into PD. There might be systemic issues that only allow a few exceptions to rise above but in actual fact it would hardly be possible for the majority of people to become a PD.

    • Hi Carolin,
      May I just say that when the PD process involves the people at the heart of the problem and ingage them in developing their goals and aspirations, then involve them in the journey of discovering what works against the odds ( actionable strategies which they choose to adopt) in their own townships or neighborhood there are no push back . They have become actors not beneficiaries. I hope this is helpful

  2. Bhav

    Have you looked into Dave Snowden’s work on how to identify outliers, using a different distribution curve, using narratives, to spot both positive and negative weak signals in the messy edges, which can then to explored using complexity-informed methods, to grow solutions contextually, etc… feels like a deepening and evolution of the PD work… rather than to generalise “let’s find the successes and scale them”… I am sure Irene can tell you more!

  3. (Apologies for reposting this info..) Re “PD purists argue for ‘social learning’: the role of outsiders is only as facilitators, helping local people identify the outliers and learn from them”

    There is an alternative/complementary approach to finding PD, which is in the first instance data-oriented (but which should always be followed up by case investigations). Predictive analytics (aka data mining) tools can be used to find outliers in any dataset. I have explained how this can be done using a simple free (Excel based) predictive modeling app here: https://evalc3.net/4-evaluate-model/finding-positive-deviants/

    There is no need for special PD programmes or initiatives. Any large-scale programme should automatically, as part of its normal practice, be doing some form of outlier analysis with the basic data it should have at hand.

    • Thanks for your input Rick.
      Yes « bright spotting » on meta data is a useful tool for those who do PD research. I would only suggest that the outliers data loose meaning where the data are too big ( comparing countries or even country level) because of lack of sameness, meaning share same context and resources…

  4. Echoing Rick Davies’ comments, using PD as a starting point to learn more about what works where is my favoured form of purposive sampling in qualitative impact studies. Why obsess about capturing average treatment effects if you can do a deep dive into a PD cluster to find out more about what’s going on there (and make that part of your ‘adaptive management’ strategy!)? I don’t think that necessarily means buying into a purist’s argument that this simply means local facilitators ‘spreading the word’, it can mean NGOs learning that a particular combination or package of interventions/ circumstances is necessary (or not) for outlier-level success and scaling up from there in conjunction with communities. As to whether you should dedicate more time to it? Yes please, if for no other reason than to ensure that it is well enough understood (and challenged) to not become just another fashionable phrase; perhaps a tall order?!

  5. Positive Deviance is a thing, a concept. Good for thinkers, and for casual conversations like the ones you describe. Positive Deviance Amplification, however, refers to a process; it is good for doers as it calls for action, and this is where our attention should go. Being a process… it needs to be adapted to the different settings and to the different aims it pursues. Meaning that that a lot of experimentation, creativity and learning is needed.

    What can positive deviance amplification be used for? It might be to improve improve how “development activities” are approached… but it could also be used to transform “development corporations” (like DFID or Oxfam), making sure that its best, marginal parts achieve centrality and replace rotten practices.

    Once again, I have to recommend to everybody interested in Positive Deviance a 2001 book: “The Soul in the Computer: The Story of a Corporate Revolutionary” (https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Computer-Story-Corporate-Revolutionary/dp/1930722036 ), which is all about how to apply positive deviance mindsets to create change, and provides plenty of practical suggestions on how to operationalise it. The book focusses on Hewlett-Packard –showing, for example, how PD was used to reinvigorate the HP Labs to induce radical innovations, or how PD helped to hack HP’s recruiting policies so more women and people from minorities got contracted–. However, it also reflects, more generally, on the use of PD for activism and social change.

    Duncan, I would love you read it and make a review. Even if it is a caustic review… it should help to move the PDA conversation forward.

  6. Ruth Mayne

    I haven’t yet read the book yet but from what I understand my guess would be that PD – learning from and seeking to share, spread and scale up solutions – is already quite a common and widespread approach although not necessarily called that? There is quite a lot of evidence that social learning is an important way of spreading positive behaviours and practices but it can only do so much. In Oxfordshire, for example, the number of low carbon communities mushroomed in part because of shared learning workshops, peer to peer mentoring and wider networking between community groups, funded by a LA and organised by a local organisation . But weak government policy has constrained wider and deeper change. I suspect that in many cases structural constraints – whether government policy, vested interests, cultural beliefs, availability of technologies, infrastructures are resources – would similarly make it difficult to widely spread or scale up positive solutions. If that is the case social learning strategies will need to accompanied by the normal range of complementary change/influencing strategies. Btw PD also seems similar to me to the concept of ‘nurturing niche innovations’ in transition theory as source of potential system change?. Perhaps a bit of mapping and shared learning on existing practices on the issue could be useful a useful start taking into account likely different terms?

  7. Underlying positive deviance successes are innovations, doing something differently. There is a long history in development practice of finding and disseminating innovations. It is at the core of alternative technology in the UK and appropriate technology in underdeveloped countries. It is the theoreticians in places like Sussex who disparaged it as not sufficiently revolutionary and requiring them to understand engineering. My supervisor, the late Harry Dickinson, had been doing this for many years before Schumacher wrote Small is Beautiful. To him it was just good engineering.

    Identifying innovations is common. The hard part is transforming them so that they can be taken up by many more people – a process of design and appropriation into the lives of particular groups of people. We see that in the transition town movement in the UK, the more subtle studies of how people start to use mobile phones in Bangladesh or the history of the development and widespread use of improved cooking stoves.

    This can start by matching a positive innovation with a negatively perceived problem. So it is not a case of look at the positives and ignore the negatives, or vice versa.

    As for what you might do, how about editing a modern online equivalent of the Whole Earth Catalog, but concentrating on the stories of people, not just the technologies?

  8. Hans Rosenkranz

    Thanks Duncan for this post. I enjoyed reading. My particular concern about PD is this: we have to be very careful looking people’s behaviours, because they are not just a sum of knowledge, but also personality traits, that you cannot replicate or scale massively.

    • Great point!
      The trick is not to focus on the person but on what they do. When framing the issue in terms like lack of resiliency, it is important to find how PD individuels, groups or organizations display resiliency in specific terms : how do they display self-efficacy, self confidence, etc in very specific strategies that are easy to adopt & replicate. Hope this is useful.

  9. Matt Greenall

    I think it is a really useful approach but obviously not relevant for every type of study or evaluation for some of the reasons given by other commenters. I was recently asked to do a study looking at why donors find it hard to fund small/unregistered/criminalised civil society groups, but talked the client round to us speaking to those groups, and asking them to tell us about their best donors – what were the practices/approaches which made it easier to work with and get funding from them? And which of these approaches made most sense for which type of donor (and recipient in fact)? And I think in this case it was the right approach because we were able to describe a set of practices that other donors could think about adopting.

    I wonder if you are overthinking the risks… if only because as sure as night follows day, good ideas in development tend to get toolkit-ised and logframed, and there’s not a lot we can do about it! But that reality doesn’t undermine the value of those ideas to start with.

  10. Monalisa Salib

    Yes, do it. Here are my reasons:

    – our standard approach to development rarely results in sustainable impact
    – your colleagues worried about reinforcing the best of the status quo: when has a two or even five year project resulted in radical structural change? Is that a common occurrence? I found that argument against PD very weak.
    – PD approach recognizes that change (particularly when outside actors involve themselves) takes time
    – it also recognizes that things are more likely to change when credible people from the community demonstrate the way forward (not just saying but modeling)

    Also encourage you to read more about appreciative intelligence and inquiry which is the application of PD (by the way, I wouldn’t acronymize in the future) in the organization development field and how to bring that positive deviance mindset and skillset to bear in our work.

    I’m always shocked that positive deviance approaches aren’t more widespread in development. I think it’s partly because of how RFAs read – there is a clear problem statement and implementing agencies are meant to respond by showing how deeply they understand the problem by picking it apart. And perhaps in a way focusing on positive deviance cases implies there is no real problem that justifies millions of dollars of investment. I don’t know. Or it could be that too few people are trained in the approach… I’m sure it’s all of that. I know that In trying to use an appreciative inquiry or positive deviance approach in organization development, people are often resistant. They ask: how will this solve any of the underlying problems? It’s illogical to many people. I haven’t been able to very successfully win that argument with logic but people see results as they go through the process and then believe it’s worth it. So to create this momentum for it, we first need stories of how it’s helped, and not just the famous Vietnam example.

  11. Thanks Duncan for bringing PD back into the limelight. I’m currently working with a major European bank using an adapted PD approach to mainstream sustainable development across the bank. I was close to the earlier Vietnam and other PD experiences but was sceptical about trying this in a finance sector culture where systems change is particularly frowned on. One year on the change is phenomenal. Worth noting this is PD mixed with multiple strategies (many of which proposals from the “deviants” themselves). I’d be happy to talk about this off-line.

  12. Sophia Murphy

    Presumably the objective is the transition from deviant to normal – so the point (as other comments have noted) is to understand what is working and even thriving and to understand what made that possible, in order to replicate it, and in order to reform the institutions to make the positive deviance possible for more, or for all. Some cases of positive deviance may rely on others not adopting the strategy – the first tube well brings much greater benefits than the 100th, unless there is a larger strategy in place to manage the common resource. Other interventions – access to electricity? education? – may have less of that zero-sum quality (but we all know places with a population of relatively highly educated unemployed). I suspect in individual cases we find things that we have already identified as important – a bit of starting capital, a few more years in school, a relative from “out” who disrupts the social norm that keeps a particular class/caste/gender/faith excluded. So the PD is empirical evidence that these things matter. But in others we are startled by how people have adapted and thrived, and we learn something new, or additional, that transforms our thinking and practice. We do have societies that are high performing in Human Development terms – places where people are safe, live with dignity, can exercise choices over their lives. In such places, PD is presumably still a thing, but of limited interest. I don’t know if it is a book, but a focus on how PD makes a difference in places with poor HD outcomes would be interesting (and they exist in the North, too – especially within countries, or across borders where the nation state divides people who otherwise would choose to live under the same government, or where people are vulnerable, eg. to storms on the coast). It seems as if there might be some civil disobedience – PD connections, too, when looking for transformative change, in the sense of civil disobedience as acts that show a space to respond to and challenge the status quo, tearing down barriers that were thought immutable (Just sit in the front of the bus. Just refuse to pay the unjust tax. Just run onto the soccer field in front of the world media, or stand in the square to bear witness to the murder and disappearance that the state denies is taking place). Those are acts of political positive deviance that are all about transformation…

  13. Hi Duncan- great post. We’ve been working on this for 5+ years now on the ground, on governance specifically- through Integrity Idol- a campaign to “name and fame” honest government officials (www.integrityidol.org) and here is a good summary recently of the campaign in Nepal: https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/forget-pop-idol-nepal-s-integrity-idol-is-fuelling-a-movement-for-change-1.764230 It is now in 7 countries with another 2 coming in 2019.

    We’ve been making some great progress recently not only in identifying and celebrating positive deviants but also working with them to build coalitions to push for reform. Some research is in the work around that to be published soon. Happy to discuss further!

  14. Chris Roche

    a) A number of the cases in the original book relate to systemic changes in breaking taboos which were absolutely not about reinforcing the status quo;
    b) As Pedro suggests the process is what makes or breaks PD and also helps distinguish new faddism approaches from genuine PD
    c) The key it seems to me is not necessarily that it is ‘local’ rather it is about engaging those who can catalyse change through the social learning process and in gaining the social proof they need (i.e seeing is believing)
    c) As Ruth says the links to thinking about ‘innovation niches’ in transition theory are potentially interesting see https://is.muni.cz/el/1423/jaro2013/HEN621/um/S5a_-_Geels_Schot_2007_Typology_of_STS_pathways.pdf

    So yes do it, but carefully!

  15. Duncan Green

    This just in from Scott Guggenheim:
    ‘I read your tweet about “positive deviance” as the next best thing but didn’t quite understand it. How different is what you’re asking for from the old question of finding out where local innovation is happening and working with that?
    I always thought there were three development flavors for this — spontaneous, facilitated, and forced — meaning, roughly, watching people adopt handphones for monitoring the weather with nobody helping them at all; CDD doing neutral facilitation but giving resources for promoting local problem solving, and conditionality and “model farmers” of various kinds to nudge innovation adoption..
    What am I missing?
    Btw, to an outsider, “positive deviance” belongs with your other tweet on development speak to jettison, except that whoever said “empowerment” already got my vote! Still, as sexy as it sounds when Lant and Michael use it in their powerpoints, whenever I translated it for them in Indonesia it sounded like we’re proposing to molest children. Before making it a theme, any chance of finding a better, more intuitive term to use?’

    • Absolutely
      Positive Deviance is a term which often off putting!
      In each projects I have been involved in partners use different words or expressions such as “Keno parano ma” Bengali. PD has been used extensively in Indonesia under a PD initiative in the 2000s focusing on childhood malnutrition, girl trafficking and adolescent girls anemia. They have developed their own words or expressions such as “positive champions” or use a proverb ( in countries with low literacy where proverbs illustrate concepts) such as “ the faraway stick does not kill the snake” ( Mozambique, Macau tribe.

  16. Cornelius Chipoma

    Duncan,
    PD has been around us for a long time. I have appreciated it through the collective action work of Elinor Ostrom (1990) and her account of self-governing groups in the management of Common Pool Resources (CPR). Indeed, the new institutionalist thinking is essentially about PD. PD really helps from a learning side in terms of knowing what is possible though not always why. Within the context of education system reform, good schools coexist with bad schools sometimes in very close proximity so a structural explanation may not tell us anything. Why? Operating with similar resources and circumstances as many others, PD schools defy the norm of poor performance. For the schools I have observed, after looking at public examination results over a five year period, there are some schools that had improved average scores (without gaming results) by over 30 percentage points in two years. The questions for me were: what were they doing differently? How many were out there? Could enough of them be leveraged to nurture other schools to prod education system transformation? Were the poorly performing schools willing, of their own accord, to learn from the PDs? Is a kind of reverse engineering of system transformation from the school to the central ministry even conceivable in a decidedly top-down bureaucracy?

    These insights help to challenge big budget development solutions as is common among development corporates. So no, PD is not the next big thing. It has been around, just overlooked by the powerful doers in development practice!

  17. Judging from the comments above, I think there is more than one view of what PD is all about. And I may have mixed the two types in my own comments above.

    At one level it is just about outliers, of a positive nature. I think my MSC example fits this definition

    At another level, it is a more demanding definition. It is not just about someone doing something different (and positive). It is about someone doing something different in circumstances that are against them and everyone else in their community. In 1990s Vietnam it was a household whose child was well nourished, despite that household and all the households in that community being very poor. My EvalC3 posting is all about finding this second type.

  18. Irene Guijt

    Great threads. Clearly some conceptual clarity won’t go amiss and how it fits with what’s already being done.

    Re taboos – is it about two levels of taboos, so it might be an unusual behaviour but within the realm of what is allowed (eg feeding kids, hand washing etc). But if it upsets power dynamics in a more challenging way, what’s the scope for PD? Getting a sense of the limits of PD to challenge entrenched structures would be an important question, getting into David and Goliath territory perhaps.

    Other names: outstanding outliers, successful surprises? Jane Lewis who has been using it quite a bit in theUK refers to ‘hidden insights’.

  19. Interesting blog and comments. This is a longer discussion. I am happy that you are connected with Said Business School, where I teach the PD approach. I was there this weekend and met with Louise Watts to discuss possible application of PD and she told me she was going to meet with Oxfam. To answer your questions about cases from the aid business. PD is being introduced within UN agencies (primarily gender and equality issues) and also within the International Red Cross (Roma communities). Will be happy to connect. Here’s a link to the case study about violence against women in Moldova. https://positivedeviance.org/case-allstudies/2018/6/25/eliminating-violence-against-women-in-moldova-with-pd.

  20. This seems a good moment to contribute. It’s great to see the energy this has released.
    1. Yes, there is an issue about definitions, clarity of concept and process, and several schools of PD (see my blog ( https://www.hiddeninsights.co.uk/leveraging-the-right-kind-of-positive-deviance/ )
    2. In bringing the Sternin approach in the UK, we adopted the name “Hidden Insights” – and focused on finding the successful practices rather than labelling people outliers/heroes etc. As in the book, it’s much easier to share the How’s that way – so it’s about practice, not personality or things that are not accessible to all.
    3. For me, the breakthroughs we have enabled are due to the underpinning principles that create a different kind of relationship with the community – they are all in the book, but not together. For example “ownership, not buy in”, “don’t decide about me, without me”, “founded on data and evidence collected by the community itself”.

    These have enabled us to use the PD approach to help people to help themselves, within limited resources, in a way that lasts, without needing further intervention from outside agencies, for longer than traditional “fixes”. Discovering and adopting small but successful changes makes a huge difference to the attitude and confidence of the people involved and they will go on to work with other change models. You need good facilitators with a clear focus on aim in view but with the willingness to go “off piste”. Great ones have come from the community as well as from agencies and academia.

  21. Penny Lawrence

    Go for it Duncan – studying success is so much more energy giving than studying failures – for the writer and the reader. There’s a lot of parallels between PD and Appreciative Inquiry – David Cooperrider’s work in the field of Organisation Development. AI has been widely taken up by North American and European organisations looking to bring about transformational change. AI focuses on evidencing learnings from success rather than deficit modelling – ie analysing success and seeking to repeat the lessons learnt rather than seeking to correct failures/weaknesses. Its a whole system approach that aims to leverage/ grow from success and depends on understanding what made something successful. I think I’ve managed to use at least 6 of the top 10 buzz words here – just to get your attention!

  22. Go for it Duncan and all others
    Here are s few answers from a nearly 30 years PD practitioner
    #1. PD as reinforcing the statu quo. Quite the contrary: PD Inquiry findings almost always threaten the statu quo, the well established protocols (PD MRSA), the Golden marketing rules (PD & MERKs), the traditional ways (PD nutrition), gender roles (PD extortion), orbusoness as usual. That is why it is a risky business and process which requires the involvement of all stakeholders, especially leadership.

    #2 PD as a new fad: As the co founder of the PD approach I have the same fear .. In my opinion «  doing a PD project » has no meaning. There are only some critical issues for which PD as a method to bring sustainable impact is a good fit. One way PD practitioners/ facilitators have been able to avoid falling into this trap is to insist that the community decides-not the leader- decides to use PD in the context of a specific problem. We call it The Invitation. This is to promote community or organizational ownership ( not buy in) from the get go.
    # 3 to avoid having PD experts driving the process & methodology it is imperative to involve the individuals or groups who are part of the problem in discovering the existing uncommon solutions. This is a very sticky point with donors and organizations using the PD approach. There is little interest to really involve the community in all steps of implementing the methodology and to defer to the local wisdom
    #4 somebody mention wondering about using PD for local advocacy? I would say absolutely PD works best on a small scale since PD is always culturally & socially contextual, and has been used successfully in advocacy such as Advocacy against FGM in Egypt, domestic violence in Moldova, etc.
    I hope this is useful.

  23. I am glad to see this discussion.
    I have a rather technical comment that relates to the connection to complexity theory, which you have also discussed on this blog.
    In the figure at the beginning of your post you show a standard “bell curve”. Also called a normal distribution or a Gaussian curve. However, for complex systems this is probably not the relevant distribution. Often they exhibit “power laws” so that there are large tails in the distribution. This is VERY important and relevant for PD because it means that the outliers are much much more probable than if the distribution is a normal distribution [typically associated with non-interacting random variables such as a series of coin tosses].
    There is more on this point in this blog post I wrote

    https://condensedconcepts.blogspot.com/2016/12/are-power-laws-good-for-anything.html

    which is based on an article by Dudley Herschbach, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry from Harvard.

  24. Paula Ochiel

    I only recently learned about Positive Deviance. I think it’s a good concept that has the potential to transform global development if the appropriate approach to advancing that transformation is identified. To address your first concern, perhaps it might not be such a bad idea to accept the status quo when it comes to PD. I think that final outcomes (to use your example, families feeding their kids better) should matter more than the channels by which we arrive at them. Radical or structural changes are great and have “changed the world”, to the extent that they are implemented well. But that does not mean that they should be the only way to pursue change, or that pursuing a different way hinders their capacity to deliver desired outcomes in any way. If PD has the potential to deliver our desired outcomes in global development for instance ( and I think it does), then we should pursue it.
    It sounds to me like pursuing PD as an alternative to, or as an improvement to current practice is sort of about identifying the known-unknowns and the unknown-unknowns– the things we know that we do not know and the things we do not know that we do not know. Positive outliers may be different because of unobservables (however similar observable characteristics may be, there is still a big chance that people are different on unobservables). Therefore, exploring these unobservables would be a great way for us to learn about what we do not currently know in development practice and to adjust or change current practices. I think it’s worth moving along the conversation on PD.

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