Most Significant Change (MSC) is a qualitative and participatory monitoring and evaluation approach that uses stories of change to assess the impact of projects and programmes. It has been called a means of “monitoring without indicators” because it does not make use of fixed indicators decided at the outset of a project. Instead, stories from the field level are gathered from a range of stakeholders on common ‘domains’ of change (for example community empowerment), along with details of context, and accounts of why the changes described in the stories are important. The stories are then systematically compared and analysed through multi-stakeholder discussion. In this way, the approach collects accounts of the changes brought about by a project and helps to clarify which changes are really important, to get to the heart of what the project is trying to achieve. The process also helps clarify the values and priorities underpinning interventions, and can promote learning and better communication within organisations and across stakeholders.

MSC's use of stories draws on its ability to capture complex change in a concise and memorable way, something that is familiar in many cultures. It also adds a rigorous framework for analysis, selection and validation of stories.

MSC is most useful:

  • Where it is not possible to predict in any detail what the outcome will be.
  • Where there may not yet be agreement on which outcomes are the most important.
  • Where outcomes will vary widely across beneficiaries.
  • Where interventions and their evaluation are highly participatory.
  • MSC is not a stand-alone monitoring and evaluation technique, but is best used as a complement to other approaches. It is currently being used to evaluate hundreds of initiatives internationally, from assessing single projects to the evaluation of programmes in large organisations.

Video introduction on MSC

Caption: This is part one of Jess Dart's four part introduction to MSC. Parts 2-4 can be found on YouTube. Credit: Jess Dart.

More Information

  1. Email discussion list/community and resources for those using and interested in the Most Significant Change approach.
  2. Short overview of MSC on Rick Davies ‘Monitoring and Evaluation News’ website. 
  3. Short introduction to MSC by Robin Vincent.
  4. Introduction and rationale for MSC pages 8-14 in MSC Guide.
  5. Using MSC to document impact of community radio case study on p21 of Measuring Change
  6. Case studies of community ambassadors of teacher training, water and sanitation and other projects in the bibliography of resources on M and E News website.
  7. Manual for Most Significant Change. This publication, developed by Rick and Jess Dart, is aimed at organisations, community groups, students and academics who wish to use the Most Significant Change method to help monitor and evaluate their social change programs and projects, or to learn more about how it can be used.

More resources on Most Significant Change can be found in the Mesh Most Significant Change resources category. To see how this resource fits in with the rest of Mesh's evaluation resources, and to learn how to navigate them, visit the Mesh evaluation page

This resource was developed by Robin Vincent as part of supporting the Wellcome Trust linked community of practice on evaluation of public and community engagement and was originally hosted on the eMOPs website.

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