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The Innovation Process
Activity 2.1 A

Search within crisis-affected communities

This activity will guide you in the use of ethnographic methods to look for solutions from within the crisis-affected community.

The key to finding these solutions, and the people implementing them, is to engage with members of the community. As with all community engagement, this requires not only appropriate methodologies but also close and careful attention to group dynamics, safety and security of participants, and mitigating any areas of potential risk.

We suggest two methods that you might employ to learn more about the strategies that local communities use to increase resilience and respond to crises. Both approaches require planning interactive exercises and bringing together community members in a workshop setting. You may find the solution to your problem is closer than you think.

Appreciative Inquiry

According to FSG, Appreciative Inquiry is “the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best.” It can be employed with communities – involving as few as six people, or much larger groups – to discover the best strategies employed in response to crises, by focusing on prominent examples of success from the community’s history.

This approach can help you to reframe your problem through the lens of successes in other contexts. By using examples of success this activity encourages positive discussion on potentially difficult topics, and facilitates creativity through a participatory, systems-thinking approach. Participants then explore the unique factors (eg, leadership, relationships, culture, structure, rewards) that made those successful moments possible.

FSG’s Guide to Appreciative Inquiry includes a cumulative four-phase process. At this stage, we recommend that you focus on the Inquire and Imagine phases of this approach. Use the FSG guide to plan sessions for each phase before bringing together members of the community in a workshop setting.

The Inquire phase involves participants getting into pairs and interviewing each other for 7–20 minutes, before sharing and discussing their experiences. This is where you should be able to identify what is working and whether there are solutions already being used within the community.

The Imagine phase involves individual reflection on a future scenario followed by group discussion of the themes that emerge. In this section, we recommend that if there is a solution being used, you spend time imagining how you could increase its utilisation in the community and beyond.

Positive Deviance

Positive Deviance (PD) is a method that helps to identify ‘edge cases’ – people in the crisis-affected community who are tackling a problem in an unusual way.

According to Positive, “the Positive Deviance approach is based on the observation that in every community or organization, there are a few individuals or groups whose uncommon but successful behaviours and strategies have enabled them to find better solutions to problems than their neighbours who face the same challenges and barriers and have access to same resources.”

Positive Deviance is best used on problems that are “not exclusively technical but also relational and requires behavioural or/and social change,” or when “the problem is complex, seemingly intractable, and other solutions haven’t worked.” As with FSG’s Guide to Appreciate Inquiry, the Basic Field Guide to the Positive Deviance Approach provides a complete process for solving problems.

We see the first three phases of the process (Define, Determine and Discover) as being part of the Search stage, and the final phase (Design) as being part of the Invent stage. Once you move into the Invention stage, ensure that your process is comfortable and accessible for participants you have identified through your PD process. Use the methods and processes that they will find easiest to participate in.

Use the Positive Deviance guide to orient yourself to the PD approach and familiarise yourself with essential tools. Next, bring together members of the community in a workshop setting and use the suggested activities as inspiration to plan sessions that will help them define or reframe problems and determine the presence of positive deviants.

Note: the PD guide only provides high-level guidance and significant preparation will be needed to carry out this exercise.