If you only read one thing this week…

Demonstrating program impact using people’s own stories by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
February 13, 2007, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have time for longer reading!

Our own Joe Dickman writes that the Most Significant Change (MSC) method is increasingly recognized within evaluation circles as a powerful technique for illustrating program impact. It emphasizes story-telling as a form of participatory monitoring, unique in its ability to capture direct views of beneficiaries, including unexpected and evolving outcomes. It is also unique in presenting a methodical, systematic way of collecting and analyzing individual stories and selecting the most compelling. It is part of an emerging thinking in evaluation to emphasize and investigate in detail the extreme cases, instead of just focusing on averages. At its best, MSC more than just a useful tool to complement more traditional M&E methods – it can actually guide a program’s own definition of “impact” and encourage a movement towards activities that enable more “significant” changes in the lives of beneficiaries.

Download the guide, and learn more here, or read more… Essentially, MSC involves the following process:
1. Field staff collect stories from beneficiaries by asking the most significant change that occurred in their lives during a specific period as a result of the project, emphasizing what it was that made that change so significant.
2. Stories are categorized into “domains of change”, which may be along broad individual/group/community lines, or according to program objectives.
3. Staff review stories and select the only most significant story within each domain, including the rationale behind their selection.
4. Selected stories are verified and quantified where appropriate, and feedback is provided to the story-tellers.
5. The process is repeated at regular intervals (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or yearly), and each time the selection rationale from previous rounds are reviewed. This encourages staff to develop an evolving view of the project’s most important impact objectives and adjust strategies accordingly.

The MSC guide, developed by the technique’s founder Rick Davies, provides overall guidelines and describes in detail the various possible permutations to the approach according to context, with plenty of examples from the field. Read more to find out how to improve our ability to categorically document program impact using people’s own stories


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