Since joining, Clear Horizon earlier this year, I’ve really enjoyed engaging with clients on different ways to elicit and present program outcomes. An interesting and compelling way to collect program outcomes is through personal stories of change using the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique.
Globally, there is increasing interest and application of the MSC technique from a range of organisations and funders, who recognise the value of narrative-based outcomes. MSC is a relatively versatile technique that can be used in many different contexts and sectors including international development, health, education and agriculture.
In May this year, I was privileged to facilitate three MSC workshops in Ghana, Zambia and Kenya with 60 alumni from the Australia Awards Africa Program, which provides post-graduate scholarships to Australian universities for up to two years. During the workshops, we reflected on and analysed the stories of significant change that had come about for the alumni since completing their studies and returning to Africa. The technique was chosen as it is a participatory form of monitoring and evaluation and does not start with any pre-defined indicators of success and so allows for unexpected (and even unintended) outcomes to be expressed.
The key elements of MSC that were used during these workshops included collection, review and selection of alumni stories. In each location four stories from 20 participants were selected as those describing the most significant changes. Together we analysed the themes from the 12 selected stories and found that themes of increased confidence, critical thinking skills and new opportunities were common in the selected stories. The ability to have impact or influence within and beyond the alumni’s immediate workplace to their communities, countries and even globally were also strong themes and align well with the Australia Awards program aims. And finally documenting why a story was chosen over others (ie why it was considered to be the most significant) is a key component of the technique, which elicits the underlying values that are represented in the stories of change.
Written by Marty Pritchard