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Risk analysis essentially answers the question: “What might go wrong?” Issues around privacy may in some projects be included in risk analysis. Projects that intend to collect data from victims, for example, should take into account the fact that victims may not wish to provide the data required, and that this is their right. Other forms of risk include changes in the political or social climate affecting project activity – for example a change in the education regime that closes access to schools, or an event that makes talking about sexual violence taboo at a certain point in time. Yet another form of risk covers implementation of the project itself – for example, that a partner might decide not to continue and drop out before work is completed, or that a key staff member in an organization changes jobs and is no longer available to the project. Risk analysis should also question what might happen if key assumptions turn out to be incorrect – for example, that a given set of information that is central to the project may not be available. Risk analysis allows project leaders and partners to anticipate things that might go wrong. It is also useful to consider whether the project will stand to gain from any changes in the socio-political climate.
Once risk analysis has been done, then the project planner should attempt to find ways to overcome any obstacles that arise or at least to get around them so that the project can proceed. This is what ‘planning contingencies’ means. Contingencies might include identifying other sources of data, changing methodology from face-to-face interview to desk research, having back-up staff on a project or two co-coordinators, or even acknowledging that certain obstacles might involve a drastic re-think of the project. Setting out the risks and what they will mean in terms of project activity at the very beginning is the best way to ensure that a project does not fail because of unforeseen events.