Fantasy documents

Brilliant term, coined by Thomas Birkland, to label all those “lessons learnt” documents that get created as arse-covering after a big disaster.

Birkland, T. 2009.  Disasters, Lessons Learned, and Fantasy Documents . Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Vol. 17, (3), pp. 146–156.

This article develops a general theory of why post-disaster ‘lessons learned’ documents are often ‘fantasy documents’. The article describes the political and organizational barriers to effective learning from disasters, and builds on general theory building on learning from extreme events to explain this phenomenon. Fantasy documents are not generally about the ‘real’ causes and solutions to disasters; rather, they are generated to prove that some authoritative actor has ‘done something’ about a disaster. Because it is difficult to test whether learning happened after an extreme event, these post-disaster documents are generally ignored after they are published.

Birkland was focusing on Hurricane Katrina “Heck of a job” etc.

See also  Policy Evaluation

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