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Opening Doors for Children & Families

A Faster Horse

Henry Ford said "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said 'a faster horse.'" Non-profits, particularly in Edmonton, do great work! They strive to find better ways to reach people, to make a person's experience better and more enjoyable. We evaluate, evaluate, evaluate and look at outcomes, responses, and what does it all mean?? (DRUM ROLL PLEASE.) Well hopefully we come up with a better product, a better service and a better way of doing things. Generally we evaluate by asking the people we are already serving (BOOMING RADIO MAN VOICE) "How can we serve you better?" And the response = a faster horse...

Alright not always but usually. The people we "serve" love us! We are preaching to the converted! They say "Don't change a thing, you do great work!" But what about the people we are not reaching...and better yet what about the people that COULD use our service but DON'T...

Recently I attended a "retreat" ok that sounds glamorous...we are a non-profit so I attended two days of meetings in the basement of United Way. But on the bright side have you ever been to United Way?? Its a beautiful building! I digress...The agency's in Edmonton providing Head Start programming, better known as the Interagency Head Start Network (IHSN), were meeting to discuss this - HOW CAN WE DO THINGS BETTER? Well day one brought a lot of faster horses. And let me just say there is nothing wrong with faster horses. We could have gone back to our respective agencies and with a bit of work and a bit of time, TA DA - A FASTER HORSE!

But did we settle for this?? No! We wanted something TRANSFORMATIVE! We were ready to take the leap! And then the heavens opened and out of it came POSITIVE DEVIANCE! Wait, I know that sounds strange and trust me we had fun with the name with the working group eventually being called the Village Deviants...that's what happens when you are locked in a basement for two days.

This approach was founded by Jerry Sternin, who is the founder of the Positive Deviance Initiative. Positive Deviance is based on the observation 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.

I know what you are thinking - "HOW TRANSFORMATIVE!" "HOW EXCITING!" "WHY DIDN'T WE THINK OF THAT!" or maybe "THIS WOMAN IS CRAZY!" "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SHE IS TALKING ABOUT!" So click here to have a look at the Positive Deviance Initiative website, then you'll be saying the former, I promise. As we embark on this positive deviance research ABC Head Start and all the Head Starts in Edmonton will be leaders of Early Learning Research RIGHT HERE IN EDMONTON! Not just paying lip service to doing things differently but truly transforming the way families work with us to provide their children with an enriched learning experience that will create success for these children now and for their entire lifetimes. We hope to unlock some of the keys families have used to navigate out of poverty and how they could help others to do the same. I think the results just may surprise us.


ABC Head Start Society is a registered charity which has been committed to promoting and supporting strong children, families, and communities in Edmonton for over 30 years. We know that by giving children the best possible early learning and development opportunities in life, we ensure the future well-being and prosperity of our families and communities.