With limited resources and a growing population, our basic goal is to be able to survive on this planet together. Every project must take this fact into consideration by examining its potential impact on the environment and society. Social and environmental impact assessments are key aspects of a project, regardless of the success of the program itself. A project that creates 10,000 new jobs, but dislocates 10,000 families may end up doing more overall harm than good. Each positive outcome must be weighed alongside the potential negative side effects when implementing something new. With the use of empirical evidence throughout a project’s delivery, this impact can be quantified and monitored.
A successful project brings the community together rather than dividing its members. All externalities, both positive and negative, need to be considered for the program to be sustainable long into the future. This is ultimately a balancing act between what is good for the organization, and what is good for the community.
Successful development practice that addresses the risk of imparting unintended consequences to the communities it attempts to serve, requires project implementer, leaders and donors to insist on well informed planning and implementation, intentionality and precision with collecting information that matters, and sustained rigor in using evidence for decision making.