What is the ‘Most Significant Change’ story-telling approach to research and evaluation?
Please read on to find out more about MSC and also have a look at our Easy Read Guide to MSC.
Most significant change (MSC) is a participatory, qualitative approach to evaluation, where it is difficult to pre-determine outcomes or where complexity makes it hard to measure ‘indicators of change’. It is particularly useful for evaluating people-orientated projects and services where the desired impact is about improvements in quality of life.
MSC is a collaborative and non-hierarchical way of identifying what has the greatest significance for the people who are accessing and delivering services - what matters most to people involved and why. Most importantly, it can give real insight into what causes the impact of change. This, in our experience, can offer a much more effective guide for organisational change than simply collecting numbers.
The technique uses ‘stories of change’ as data, collected from and analysed by project stakeholders through a process of shared discussion, thus creating a platform for reflective learning which includes voices that often go unheard.
MSC promotes shared learning and reflection within and across organisations and can help to build working relationships. It can be used alongside other traditional evaluation methods.
It is easy to implement and to share findings and is adaptable to project needs and budgets.
There are three stages of the approach:
Story collection: in which stakeholders are asked what changes have come about as a result of their involvement in the project; and which of these matter most to them. They are asked what this aspect of their life or practice was like before their involvement; what it is like now; and what specifically has made the difference. This is written up as a short story.
Story reflection/ selection: in which a different group of stakeholders read and discuss a number of stories in order to identify what stands out most for them; and what the key learning for the project is.
Feedback and dissemination: the learning from the discussion session is disseminated as widely as possible.
Originally developed by Rick Davies in the 1990’s, the MSC technique aimed to meet some of the challenges associated with monitoring and evaluating a complex participatory rural development programme in Bangladesh. Read more here. Also see our Useful links page for more of Rick's work
Since then, it has predominantly been used by international development and aid agencies to evaluate their programmes around the world. However, MSC is now increasingly being recognised as a highly effective research, evaluation and change management tool by smaller scale, people-orientated projects and organisations in the UK.
Contact SERA to find out more, share your experience of using MSC or to link in to our practice alliance.