Frameworks & Approaches


Frameworks & Approaches describe ways to gather and make sense of data.

Most Significant Change

Most Significant Change is a participatory evidence-gathering technique. It involves collecting stories of significant change, usually from a service or programme. Staff, volunteers, participants and interested groups take part. A chosen group selects what it thinks are the most significant stories.

Having gathered the stories of significant change, various people gather, read them aloud and discuss their value in depth. When they use the technique successfully, whole teams of people begin to focus on impact and what matters most to those involved.

Important steps in the Most Significant Change (MSC) process include:

  • Identify key themes to explore through stories.
  • Gather the stories.
  • Select the most significant stories.
  • Report back the results.


Rick Davies developed this technique in 1993. It originated in the monitoring of aid projects throughout the developing world.

Its use has expanded as the popularity of story and dialogue-based techniques grows.

See here for Rick Davies’ explanation and updates to MSC.


  • It is good at identifying unexpected changes.
  • It is helpful for identifying the values and highlighting which are most important.
  • The people most directly involved collectively assess the impact.
  • It requires no special professional skills and can be done in-house, however good facilitation skills and ability to prioritise are important.
  • It is easy to communicate across cultures and everyone can tell stories about what is important to them.
  • It encourages analysis as well as data collection because people have to explain why they believe one change is more important than another.
  • It can build staff capacity to analyse data and understand impact.
  • It can deliver a rich picture of what is happening, rather than reducing organisational, social and economic developments to numbers.


    • MSC is not a quick option.  It takes time, resources and skills to understand the method, gather the stories and identify what people think is important.
    • It can be challenging to involve different groups and to maintain their interest.
    • It is also important to gather, share and use the stories with integrity and not for other purposes, such as promotional material without proper consent.

      MSC offers a qualitative approach that does not use indicators. It works best when it complements other methods rather than as a stand-alone method.

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