In brief: The most significant change (MSC) technique is a means of “monitoring without indicators” (but can also be used in evaluations)
MSC is a form of participatory monitoringandevaluation. It is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both in deciding the sorts of changes to be recordedandin analysing the data collected. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the program cycleandprovides information to help people manage the program. It contributes to evaluation because it provides data on impactandoutcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of the program as a whole.
Essentially, the process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field level,andthe systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of designated stakeholders or staff. The designated staffandstakeholders are initially involved by ‘searching’ for project impact. Once changes have been captured, selected groups of people sit down together, read the stories aloudandhave regularandoften in-depth discussions about the value of these reported changes,andwhch they think is most significant of all. In large programs there may multiple levels at which SC stories are pooledandthens elected. When the technique is implemented successfully, whole teams of people begin to focus their attention on program impact.
MSC is most useful:
Where it is not possible to predict in any detail or with any certainty what the outcome will be
Where outcomes will vary widely across beneficiaries
Where there may not yet be agreements between stakeholders on what outcomes are the most important
Where interventions are expected to be highly participatory, including any forms of monitoringandevaluation of the results