At the recently concluded meeting of the American Evaluation Association, Michael Bamberger, Penny Hawkins, and I led a Think Tank session on unintended consequences of development programs. One premise that motivated the workshop was the belief that unintended consequences are ubiquitous in development, and that evaluation would be well served by developing better methods for predicting and reacting to those kinds of surprises. A second premise was that to develop those methods, it is necessary to develop a community of interest around that topic. The Think Tank was a first step. The use of this blog to help the community develop is another step.
As a beginning we want to start collecting cases. Our hope is that people will post cases and that others will respond with suggestions about what might have been done. We realize that posting cases can be a delicate matter because discussing unintended behaviors might reflect badly on programs, sponsors, and evaluators. But we hope that people will be able to sufficiently anonymize their posts as to cover identities, while retaining the information needed to allow the rest of us to comment in an intelligent manner. It’s an experiment. Let’s see what happens.