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Best Cases From The Book

Here are organizations and programs that have successfully used join-the-club strategies to solve problems. Most of the examples are drawn from the book, which is the best source for understanding how the strategy worked in each case. Suggestions from readers of other examples will be welcomed; please email info@jointheclub.org.


Alcoholics Anonymous
The classic.

South Africa’s national teen AIDS-prevention program, loveLife pioneered a new kind of healthy-living campaign. It replaced traditional safe-sex appeals based on imparting information or creating fear with an upbeat, peer-to-peer strategy centered on all the positive reasons for young people to reduce their AIDS risk.

Short for Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course, DOTS has become the standard therapy worldwide for treating tuberculosis. TB is treatable with a course of inexpensive antibiotics, but the drugs must be taken for six months. Good patient adherence is important for cure and to slow the development of TB strains resistant to the first-line drugs. DOTS uses a peer – a friend, family member or community health worker – to watch the patient swallow her pills and has greatly improved cure rates around the world.

Partners in Health
Working in rural Haiti and the slums of Peru, the Boston-based public health group PIH demonstrated that AIDS can be treated and drug-resistant TB can be cured in impoverished settings. Its models are now in use in many places across the globe. It uses a social-cure based strategy of accompagnateurs, and is extending this strategy to the United States.

This nationwide youth anti-smoking campaign uses the strategies employed by Florida in its pioneering program to identify cigarettes as a way to manipulate teens and promote nonsmoking as a way to rebel against the tobacco industry. Its work is supplemented by youth clubs in different states such as Rage Against the Haze in South Carolina (now only a Facebook page) and Students Working Against Tobacco).

Formally knows as the Comprehensive Rural Health Project, this program, based in Jamkhed, India, trains and supports impoverished women at the bottom of the social scale to become village health workers. It builds their confidence and skills through relationships with other women in the program.

A free website that offers dieters the chance to form on-line groups whose members hold each other accountable.

Weight Watchers
All diets work if you follow them. What makes Weight Watchers different than other weight loss programs is the peer support that helps people stick to their diets.


This Virginia-based company produces software that promotes energy efficiency by showing households how their electricity consumption compares with that of their comparable neighbors, and offering specific tips tailored to each consumer for reducing energy usage.

Prisoner Re-integration

Delancey Street
This San Francisco group has graduated thousands of former prisoners, drug abusers and others who have hit bottom into productive lives with a four-year residential program that employs the social cure.

The Fortune Society
A New York organization that works with newly released prisoners, it offers job training, classes, drug treatment and other services, and provides ex-offenders with a supportive new peer group in its residential buildings in West Harlem.


Emerging Scholars Programs
Started at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s, these are special discussion sectors for calculus and other math classes in which students work in small groups on especially challenging problems. Designed to help minority students succeed in calculus, Emerging Scholars Programs raise all students’ math grades, but especially those of minorities. At their peak they were used in math departments at 150 universities.

Violence Prevention

The Strategy to Reach, Empower and Educate Teenagers was a drop-in center for Muslim youth in the South London neighborhood of Brixton that worked with a largely convert population. It sought to turn young people away from common crime and religious violence with anti-violence programming from a largely fundamentalist, Salafi orientation.

Alliance of Concerned Men
The Alliance is a Washington, D.C.-based group founded in 1991 by a group of middle aged men who had grown up in rough neighborhoods and turned their lives around. The group works to reduce violence, promote responsible fatherhood and reintegrate prisoners into the community. It has won fame by negotiating nine gang-war truces.

Active Change Foundation
Based in the London neighborhood of Waltham Forest, Active Change aims to turn local youth away from gang crime and religious extremism. One of its founders, Hanif Qadir, had traveled to Afghanistan to fight there but quickly became disillusioned. He turned his energies to dissuading the young men in his neighborhood from making the same journey.

Three Doctors
Three boys growing up in rough neighborhoods in Newark during the height of the crack epidemic made pacts with each other that they would become doctors. They did, and continue to promote positive peer pressure as a way to help children succeed.

Democratic Change

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies is a Belgrade-based group founded by former leaders of the Serbian anti-Milošević student movement, Otpor. It runs workshops for civic groups (mainly those made up of young people) around the world on using Otpor-style tactics to build mass movements and achieve political change.


Willow Creek Community Church
Perhaps the most influential church in America, Willow Creek has always experimented with different ways to bring its members closer to God. Among them have been Table groups – small groups based around who lives near you. Perhaps too intense for many Willow Creek members, the Table groups have helped people committed to them to grow spiritually.


Grameen Bank
The legendary Bangladeshi business founded by Muhammad Yunus pioneered microlending on an enormous scale. The Grameen family has expanded from microlending into mortgages and other financial products, telecommunications, venture capital, energy and even a knitwear factory.