From: http://www.mande.co.uk/docs/MSCGuide.pdf by Rick Davies and Jess Dart
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.
The process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories from the field level, and the systematic selection of the most important of these 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 the reported changes. When the technique is successfully implemented, whole teams of people begin to focus their attention on programme impact.
MSC has gone by several names since it was conceived, each emphasising a different quality. It is an emerging technique and has already acquired many adaptations, discussed in Davies and Dart (2005).Examples are: ‘Monitoring-without-indicators’ – MSC does not make use of predefined indicators, especially ones which have to be counted and measured; or the ‘story approach’ – the answers to the central question about change are often in the form of stories of who did what, when and why, and the reasons the event was important.
These ten steps are usually included:
• Raising interest at the start.
• Defining the domains of change.
• Defining the reporting period.
• Collecting SC stories.
• Selecting the most significant of the stories.
• Feeding back the results of the selection process.
• Verifying the stories.
• Secondary analysis and meta-monitoring.
• Revising the system.
Here is an interesting publication that was sent to our Pelican “sister” forum. This paper covers INTRAC and CABUNGO's experience in using the Most Significant Change (MSC) methodology to evaluate capacity building services in Malawi:
From the Executive Summary:
“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.The key findings of the evaluation are that:
• CABUNGO has achieved significant impacts on the sustainability and effectiveness of the NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) with which it has worked. • The most significant changes in organisational capacity involved shifts in attitudes, skills, knowledge and behaviour, but changes were also seen in relationships and power dynamics. • Of the 23 stories, 21 described shifts or improvements to the relationships within the organisation, and of these, 12 also described improved external relationships with the wider community and donors. • Achieving the impacts described depends on preserving the time, resources and expertise that quality capacity building interventions require. • Capacity building providers like CABUNGO face specific challenges in maintaining both the quality of their practice and their long-term financial sustainability.”