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Locating the unintended consequences of interventions: a tool for analysing impact inequality in development programming

A new tool, LUCI, has been developed as part of the Locacons Project to determine the broader impacts of development interventions.

Matthew Osborne, Fiona Lambe / Published on 27 February 2023
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Lomax, J., Osborne, M., & Lambe, F. (2023). Locating the Unintended Consequences of Interventions: A Tool for Analysing Impact Inequality in Development Programming. SEI tool. Stockholm Environment Institute.

Solar mini-grid, Kenya © CarlFourie / Getty

Solar mini-grid, Kenya © CarlFourie / Getty

Contributions exploring the unintended impacts of development programming have become increasingly prominent in the literature, as the accepted interdependence between the impacts of climate change, on the one hand, and questions relating to sustainable development, on the other, has become a mainstream topic among policymakers and researchers. Assessments of these unintended impacts tend to be lacking, given that programmes tend to focus on the intended project impacts and how they will be achieved.

This is not only a problem for evaluation, but also – more importantly – for strategy and attempts to mitigate such impacts through effective design. A growing body of empirical literature is demonstrating that climate and development interventions that are poorly planned and operated can exacerbate the underlying problems. This increases inequalities and, consequently, social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities, too – a process that has been described as “maladaptation”.

Constructing logic models to gauge unintended consequences is necessarily more difficult, given the broader range of potential causes. The authors present a tool here – “Locating the Unintended Consequences of Interventions”, or LUCI – that seeks to aid analysis of how development projects are able to create winners and losers, by assessing their broader consequences in terms of their impacts on existing group-based inequalities.

Knowledge of how and where interventions may create unintended consequences is crucial for all sectors; however, in communities with a history of conflict, in particular, unintended impacts of interventions have been shown to be significant contributors to the exacerbation of conflict potential. Estimates show that two-thirds of the world’s poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected states by 2030.

The LUCI tool can be useful in many contexts. The authors present an example in this report of how it can be applied to analyse the potential conflict impacts of a climate change adaptation development intervention, which is designed to deliver rural electrification to economically marginalized groups, through the introduction of solar hybrid mini-grids in northern Kenya.

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SEI authors

Fiona Lambe
Fiona Lambe

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Design and development by Soapbox.