Friday, November 16, 2018

Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences

The term came to my mind while attending the Mental Health Court Board the other afternoon. I was hearing a statistics report on how money was being saved by shorter jail time and recidivism reduction. Legislative folks were interested apparently and donors as well in the saving of money from the investment made. 

What struck me in the report was a figure that could not be obtained the first few years. Now that three years have past and graduates are out in the community there are other figures. Over 50 per cent are employed and over 60 percent are volunteering. Volunteering was part of their rehabilitation. They are continuing to be of service to the community as well as citizens in the work force, paying sales tax at least. They have not returned to jail so their previous cycle of behavior has been changed. These last items I would call unintended consequences not known or knowable in the beginning, perhaps envisioned and hoped for, but not the reality as they are now.

I have heard the term unintended consequences before. I have participated in a number of unintended consequences. I could tell numerous stories. Some had negative outcomes and some positive. 

The outcome of the first three Befrienders as story listeners at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1966, fifty years later had a number of unintended consequences, including the art of story metaphor listening, the grief resource group, the grief recovery group, and hospice of Scott County now the Clarissa Cook hospice. A more subtle change was to move the hospital culture to be more open to the importance of story in the organization as well as with patient care. It was definitely true after 25 years. I don't know if it is still true with a new administration and new people. 

Being a person fascinated with how language works I see one of my favorite words in this expression, intend and even tend as the root word. The word conveys to care for the process in progress. An unintended signifies part of the progress that includes aspects not apparent in the beginning. My own personal methodology in an environment which is more oriented to a management by objectives is intuitional intentionality. My intuition provides the direction in which to become intentional. Another blog about that. 

Positive outcomes that appear unintended can move to a more intended mode where further unintended outcomes reveal themselves on the horizon. The total process means continuing discernment as to which to pursue and which to correct as decision making comes into play. 

Another unintended consequence was revealed when I asked the director of the community mental health facility what they were finding as a result of seeing patients on the day of need instead of assigning an appointment a week or more in the future. The outcome: they are seeing more patients and a whole new clientele they had not seen before. The therapist seem to be surprised and energized by this. Another unintended consequence. Additional therapist have been added.

Another outcome that is not clear in my own mind is how they are reducing the number going to the emergency rooms.

Our store house of knowledge on the internet has some background to the term unintended consequences. The term has an author and some history. I will set aside some time in the future to read this background. In the meantime I am going to be adding the term to my connecting the dots approach. For unintended consequences is an important dot in knowing. The epistemological question of our time, i.e. how we know what we know.


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