Ethics & Engagement across the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes

Most Significant Change - resources and links

Most Significant Change – A story based approach to assessing impact


‘Most Significant Change’ is a qualitative and participatory monitoring and evaluation approach that uses stories of change to assess the impact of projects and programmes. It has been called a means of “monitoring without indicators” because it does not make use of fixed indicators decided at the outset of a project. Instead, stories from the field level are gathered from a range of stakeholders on common ‘domains’ of change (for example ‘community empowerment’), along with details of context, and accounts of ‘why’ the changes described in the stories are important.  The stories are then systematically compared and analysed through multi-stakeholder discussion. In this way, the approach collects accounts of the changes brought about by a project and helps to clarify which changes are really important, to get to the heart of what the project is trying to achieve. The process also helps clarify the values and priorities underpinning interventions, and can promote learning and better communication within organisations and across stakeholders.

MSC’s use of stories draws on their ability to capture complex change in a concise and memorable way, something that is familiar in many cultures. It also adds a rigorous framework for analysis, selection and validation of stories.

MSC is most useful:

  • Where it is not possible to predict in any detail what the outcome will be
  • Where there may not yet be agreement on what outcomes are the most important
  • Where outcomes will vary widely across ‘beneficiaries’
  • Where interventions and their evaluation are highly participatory

MSC is not a stand-alone monitoring and evaluation technique, but is best used as a complement to other approaches. It is currently being used to evaluate hundreds of initiatives internationally, from assessing single projects to the evaluation of programmes in large organisations.


Manual/Guide for MSC:

Developed by Rick and Jess Dart and incorporating experiences of implementing MSC with a range of international NGOs in a range of different contexts


Quick start guide:

Shorter than the full manual, outlining the key steps in setting up a Most Significant Change story impact assessment process for a project or programme


Email discussion list/community and resources for those using and interested in the Most Significant Change approach:



Short overview of MSC on Rick Davies ‘Monitoring and Evaluation News’ website:


Short ‘powerpoint’ introduction by Robin Vincent: MSC%20introduction.ppt

Introduction and rationale for MSC pages 8-14 in MSC Guide


You tube video introduction by Jess Dart in several parts (4 short 6-10 minute films):


Case Studies

Using MSC to document impact of community radio. Case study on p21 of ‘Measuring Change’


Case studies of ‘community ambassadors’ of ‘teacher training’, water and sanitation and other projects in Bibliography of resources on M and E News website:


These introductory resources have been developed by Robin Vincent as part of supporting the Wellcome Trust linked community of practice on evaluation of public and community engagement.

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