Interesting post by Edward Carr ‘Mistakes Behavioral Economists Make‘ on his blog “Open the Echo Chamber” about the need to understand “what success looks like” when planning and evaluating interventions to reduce poverty.
There is still a lurking, underlying presumption that in making livelihoods decisions people are trying to maximize income and or the material quality of their lives. This, however, is fundamentally incorrect. In Delivering Development and a number of related publications (for example, here, here, and here) I have laid out how, in the context of livelihoods, material considerations are always bound up in social considerations. If you only evaluate these actions as aimed at material goals, you’ve only got a part of the picture – and not the most important part, in most cases. Instead, what you are left with are a bunch of decisions and outcomes that appear illogical, that can be cast as mistakes. Only most of the time, they are not mistakes – they are conscious choices.
Few evaluations take sufficient time to really understand the perspectives of intended beneficiaries and how they would judge success – and yet without this it’s hard to plan effective programs.