Most Significant Change

Brief Description:

From: by Rick Davies and Jess Dartreflectingtogether.jpg
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.

Example Applications:

  • Program evaluation.
  • Organizational review and evaluation.
  • Building community ownership through participatory evaluation.

Full Description:

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.
• Quantification.
• Secondary analysis and meta-monitoring.
• Revising the system.

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Related Methods/Tools/Practices:

More Information/References/Related Resources:

  • The ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use" by Rick Davies and Jess Dart (2005). 104 pages. PDF format - 1.236 KB
  • There is now a two-part Spanish translation of the 2005 MSC Guide (pages 1-71, and 71-104), by Eva Camacho <> LWR funded the first half of the translation and Rick Davies covered the second part. Copies of the first part are available from Heather Dolphin < >. LWR are asking for a payment from organisations requesting a copy, until they recover a percentage of their initial cost. The second half is available from Rick Davies, who is asking recipients for comments on the translation so we can make sure it is good quality.
  • Hacia más cambios significativos con el método de CMS -Desarrollo e implementación del método del Cambio Más Significativo en los Programas Temáticos de Ibis en Guatemala: experiencias de la fase inicial y guía de implementación. Por Silke Mason Westphal, con aportes de Gladys Velásquez y Karsten Kirkegaard (2005).
  • A paper covering INTRAC and CABUNGO's experience in using the Most Significant Change (MSC) methodology to evaluate capacity building services in Malawi:
  • MSC Community website and mailing list, see:

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