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The ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use

The most significant change (MSC) technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. The process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field, and the systematic collection 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.

The technique was invented by Rick Davies in an attempt to meet some of the challenges associated with monitoring and evaluating a complex participatory rural development program in Bangladesh.

This guide is aimed at organisations, community groups, students and academics who wish to use MSC to help monitor and evaluate their social change programs and projects. The technique is designed to be applicable to many different sectors, including agriculture, education and health, and especially in development programs.

The introductory chapter to this guide provides an overview of MSC. The second chapter then gets into practicalities of implementing MSC, which is broken down into 10 steps.

  1. How to start and raise interest
  2. Defining the domains of change
  3. Defining the reporting period
  4. Collecting SC stories
  5. Selecting the most significant of the stories
  6. Feeding back the results of the selection process
  7. Verification of stories
  8. Quantification
  9. Secondary analysis and meta-monitoring
  10. Revising the system

Chapter 3 offers guidance on practical troubleshooting, whilst Chapter 4 looks at building capacity for effective use of MSC. The final section covering the practical side of MSC, Chapter 5, examines how MSC fits into the program cycle and how it can contribute to program improvement.

After this chapter the guide delves more into the theory. Chapters 6 and 7 examine the validity of MSC and how it fits with other approaches and epistemologies. The final two chapters then outline the evolution of MSC: where it came from and where it might be heading. The authors do state, however, that MSC can be successfully implemented without a strong understanding of the theory.

  • Resource type
  • Author Davies, R and Dart, J
  • Year of Publication2005
  • Region
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Number of pages104 pp.

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