Dear Jennifer and Gary:
Thank you so much for this conversation. I agree both that much of what we do in this sector is uncertain and that there is pressure to not admit to uncertainty - to receive funding, to move up in a priority list, etc.
At least retrospectively, though, we can learn a lot about why something did or did not work because, unlike burned cookies in a new oven, we have the advantage of being able to talk to a wide (and potentially systematic) variety of stakeholders about what happened, to carefully analyze this information, and to refer to it to make future efforts slightly less uncertain. To do this well, monitoring, process evaluation, stakeholder analyses and a variety of qualitative methods need to be treated as integral to evaluation and learning.