There are often good reasons for unexpected outcomes, especially when tackling long term challenges that involve a high degree of uncertainty.
It is easy to ignore the unexpected in an attempt to stick to budget or to keep things simple. However, when dealing with a complex issue such as climate change, valuable lessons may learned by examining the unexpected and unintended results:
- Ensure your evaluation design is flexible enough to explore unexpected outcomes; don’t be tempted to focus all your resources on whether ‘what you thought would happen did happen’.
- Consider an initial scoping stage which allows you to identify areas of interest, and reallocate resources if unexpected areas emerge.
- Use open questions and participatory techniques which allow contributors to explain what they think worked well (or not), and why.
- Make a note of areas of interest or results which are beyond the scope of your study and share these with other organisations or sectors. You may not be able to pursue these findings, but others may. In turn, peripheral findings from other studies may provide valuable insights for your work.