Most Signifiant Change

Most Significant Change (MSC) is a potentially useful evaluation tool given its simplicity and its use of storytelling to communicate experiences of change, and the who, why, how and why of an event or situation. This relatively new method is based on a qualitative, participatory approach, with stakeholders involved in all aspects of the evaluation and is therefore a shift away from conventional quantitative, expert driven evaluation methods toward a qualitative participant driven approach, focusing on the human impact of interventions. MSC is particularly useful for understanding if and how behavior change has occurred and how an intervention has contribuated to the change. Most Significant Change involves the generation of significant change stories by various stakeholders involved in an intervention. These are stories of significant changes caused by the intervention and can be adapted to also pick up on unexpected changes that may not have clear causal links to interventions. The ‘more significant’ of these stories are then selected by the stakeholders for depth discussions. This is the heart of the how use most significant change and where many go wrong These discussions bring to the stakeholders’ attention the impacts of the intervention that have the most significant affects on the lives of the beneficiaries (Davies and Dart, 2005). Due to the relative simplicity of the approach, which is easy to explain and can be communicated well across cultures, and its emphasis on encouraging project participants to share their stories and experiences in a relatively unstructured and informal way, MSC was thought to be particularly relevant as a means to identify unexpected changes–both positive and negative. The technique has so far been widely, and has been found to elicit a number of unexpected positive project impacts from participants (see for example Sheriff and Schuetz, 2009).

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Additional Information

Field Value
Contact person Marina Apgar
Participatory approach / method to address complexity
Target audience
When in the project cycle is the tool useful
Contribution to gender research
Spatial scale
Levels of organizations taken into account
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Tool manual/User guide
Citation Davies. R. and Dart, J. 2005. The Most Significant Change (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use. CARE International, United Kingdom, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, Australia, Government of South Australia, Oxfam New Zealand, Christian Aid, United Kingdom, Exchange, United Kingdom, Ibis, Denmark, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS), Denmark, and Lutheran World Relief, United States of America. Sheriff, N., and Schuetz, T. 2008. Monitoring for change, assessing for impact: the WorldFish Center experience. Paper submitted for the workshop on Rethinking Impact: Understanding the Complexity of Poverty and Change, Cali, Colombia 26‐29 March 2008. WorldFish Center, Penang, Malaysia. And International Water Management Institute, Accra, Ghana.