Tool Kit: The Most Significant Change Technique

We’ve gotten several requests for community engagement tools as well as options for monitoring and evaluation methods, so we wanted to start showcasing some tools that you can use with a wide variety of audiences. We would love to get your input and hear about your own favorite activities, engagement exercises, and strategies. Email so we can showcase them on the website with the others.

This month, we are looking at a story-telling based method for measuring change:

The Most Significant Change technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It brings together many project stakeholders to both decide the sorts of changes to be recorded and to analyze the data. Used as a monitoring device, it occurs throughout the program cycle and provides information to help people manage the program. As an evaluation method, it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of the program as a whole.

The Most Significant Change technique works well for projects that don’t yield a lot of quantitative data. It can be a tool for identifying unexpected changes and provide a very rich picture of events and activities rather than a simplified numeric overview. It is also great for monitoring and evaluating bottom-up initiatives that don’t have predefined outcomes.

Internally, it can be used to generate discussions about organizational values through discussion about what significant change actually means. It requires no special skills during the monitoring process, but can build staff and volunteer capacity in analyzing data.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Build interest among key stakeholders and get participation commitments
  2. Define what changes you want to monitor and evaluate
  3. Decide what reporting period you will use – year, six months, two months, etc.
  4. Collect stories on significant changes from the participants
  5. Select the most significant of the stories. Every time stories are selected, make sure that the selection criteria are recorded and given back to all interested stakeholders.
  6. Get feedback on the results of the process. Include key stakeholders in reviewing the process, the stories selected, and the types of changes recorded in the stories.
  7. Verify the stories
  8. Quantify the results
  9. Conduct another round of analysis
  10. Revise the system based on lessons learned