Evaluation is not just about assessing whether objectives have been met. Identifying and considering unintended impacts can be a critically important part of deciding whether or not a program, a policy or a project has been a success. But not all guides to evaluation acknowledge the importance of unintended impacts – or give advice about methods to identify and include them.
Many evaluations and logic models only focus on intended outcomes and impacts - but positive or negative unintended results can be important too.
Use these options before a program is implemented to identify possible unintended outcomes and impacts, especially negative impacts (that make things worse not better) that should also be investigated and tracked.
Make sure your data collection remains open to unintended results that you have not anticipated by including some open-ended questions in interviews and questionnaires, and by encouraging reporting of unexpected results.
Most programme theories, logic models and theories of change show how an intervention is expected to contribute to positive impacts. Negative programme theory, a technique developed by Carol Weiss, shows how it might produce negative impacts.