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Information on the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique

  • Jess Dart answers questions online re using MSC, on the Australian Development Gateway
    • How did you come to learn about MSC and what attracted you to the technique? 
    • When have you seen MSC deliver its greatest impact? 
    • What 3 things would you advise a novice MSC practitioner to pay attention to? 
    • What is the most common mistake people make with MSC? 
    • When is it best not to use Most Significant Change (MSC)? 
    • Building MSC into an M&E Framework for a program in governance? 
    • MSC standard template to work from for M & E? 
    • MSC effective when used in evaluating projects using complimentary development drivers (like ICT)? 
    • MSC theory and its application, particularly in relation to evaluation of law/justice/policing ?

  • Perceptions of 'Significant Change' in School Cultures in South Australia By Rosie Le Cornu, Judy Peters, Margot Foster, Robyn Barratt and Jacqueline Stratfold. Published by International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management. Volume 6, Issue 5, 2006, pp.161-170. "Since 1999 over 150 schools in the South Australian Learning to Learn Initiative have received funding to support educational redesign aimed at transforming the learning culture and opportunities for both teachers and their students. For the past three years the Most Significant Change (MSC) Process has been used by participants to document and evaluate changes in their schools. MSC was originally developed by Rick Davies for use in the evaluation of a social development program in Bangladesh (Davies, 1996). It also goes under several other names such as ‘the Evolutionary Approach to Organisational Learning’, ‘the Narrative Approach’ and also ‘the Story Approach’ (Dart, Drysdale, Cole & Saddington, 2000). In South Australia the process involved participants writing stories about what they perceived to be significant change as a result of involvement in the project, and then engaging in a process of discussion and selection to identify those stories that were considered to be most illustrative of significant change. This paper reports on the use of the process as a tool for evaluating educational change and presents findings from an analysis which was conducted on the stories to reveal participants’ perceptions of what constitutes significant change in school cultures, practice and outcomes for teachers and students." (posted 13/12/06)

  • Praxis Paper No. 12 Learning from Capacity Building Practice: Adapting the ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) Approach to Evaluate Capacity Building Provision by CABUNGO in Malawi By Rebecca Wrigley December 2006 "This paper provides a reflection on a pilot experience of using the ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) methodology to evaluate the capacity building services of CABUNGO, a local capacity building support provider in Malawi. MSC is a story-based, qualitative and participatory approach to monitoring and evaluation (M&E). INTRAC and CABUNGO worked collaboratively to adapt and implement the MSC approach to capture the complex and often intangible change resulting from capacity building, as well as to enhance CABUNGO’s learning and performance. Overall, it is felt that MSC did provide an effective approach to evaluating capacity.... Participants in the evaluation process felt that using a story-based approach was very useful in helping CABUNGO to understand the impact that it is having on the organisational capacity of its clients and how its services could be improved. The key advantages of using MSC were its ability to capture and consolidate the different perspectives of stakeholders, to aid understanding and conceptualisation of complex change, and to enhance organisational learning. The potential constraints of using MSC as an approach to evaluating capacity building lay in meeting the needs of externally driven evaluation processes and dealing with subjectivity and bias". (12/12/06)

  •  Participatory video for monitoring and evaluation  Chris Lunch   Insight  Oxford   UK, Issue 29, September 2006  "Participatory video lends itself well to project monitoring and evaluation. Chris Lunch, director of Insight, describes how communities are using video to capture and interpret stories of significant change. See the section on "Improving participatory video as a tool for M&E" "Our initial experiences with participatory video led us to two important questions. How could we formalise its obvious potential as an M&E tool and develop a more systematic approach? How could we add a quantifiable element in the otherwise very qualitative material that was being generated? Rick Davies’ ‘most significant change’ (MSC) technique provided a way forward on both these questions....". (12/12/06)  

  • Evaluation: LandLearn’s most significant change. Lydia Fehring, Jenny Pettenon, Ann Fagan, Kathryn Goyen, Jessica Connor on the website of the Australiasia Pacific Extension Network. Abstract. "LandLearn is an education program provided by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) aimed at assisting teachers to integrate sustainable agriculture and natural resource management into the curriculum to encourage student learnings around those themes. To coincide with the end of the previous five years of funding, LandLearn engaged an external evaluation consultancy to undertake a formative evaluation of the program.The aim of the evaluation was to plan the next phase of LandLearn, guide and inform decision making and to look for the intermediate indicators of success. That is, we wanted to know that we were contributing to long-term behaviour change by measuring the extent that our audience was using and valuing LandLearn beyond our initial contact. An unexpected outcome of the evaluation was using the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique as a method of evaluating the program. Through the use of MSC, LandLearn was able to successfully collect qualitative data on the long-term impact of the LandLearn program. This presentation will demonstrate the value of the MSC technique and the way LandLearn has used project evaluation and learning for continual improvement. Three key learnings: (1) Using the Most Significant Change technique was a particularly powerful method where traditionally there are challenges to measure and demonstrate short-term impact. MSC also engages key stakeholders, investors and partners in a process that is fun, enjoyable, interesting and a learning opportunity for them. (2) Undertaking the evaluation allowed staff to look critically at how we do business – it confirmed the way that we do things, supported our assumptions and provided us clarity in planning and defining our next steps; and (3) The MSC technique has considerable value in evaluating the long term practice change of programs, especially when working with the intermediate users (teachers)." 913/12/06)

(From the MSC Users Guide, p8) "The most significant change (MSC) technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both in deciding the sorts of change to be recorded and in analysing the data. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the program cycle and provides information to help people manage the program. It contributes to evaluation because it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of the program as a whole."

"Essentially, the process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field level, and the systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of designated stakeholders or staff. The designated staff and stakeholders are initially involved by ‘searching’ for project impact. Once changes have been captured, various people sit down together, read the stories aloud and have regular and often in-depth discussions about the value of these reported changes. When the technique is implemented successfully, whole teams of people begin to focus their attention on program impact".

(From the MSC email list webpage) "Most Significant Changes monitoring is different from common monitoring practice in at least four respects: (a) The focus is on the unexpected, (b) Information about those events is documented using text rather than numbers, (c) Analysis of that information is through the use of explicit value judgements, (d) Aggregation of information and analysis takes place through a structured social process."