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Evaluating systems change and place-based approaches – Online Course – November, 2019

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Story selection is where most of the learning happens with MSC. While you are working with others through this process, you’ll have in-depth conversations, looking for meaning and outcomes in the stories you review. This gives you a chance to conduct reflective practice as a group – an often missing element in project management.

There are two key aspects to master here:

  1. The selection structure: Who sits on a selection panel, and how many panels you need.
  2. The selection process: How you will decide which stories get selected.

What’s the best way to structure your story selection panels? That depends on your organisation and program. If your organisation or group is small or simply structured, you may only nee one ‘layer’ of selection – that is you select the MSC stories and send them upwards to your funders or executives. Other organisations may be more complex, and there may be more than one ‘layer’ of selection. You can also choose a hierarchical or flat structure.


You can incorporate beneficiaries’ views in a hierarchical process. This hierarchical process can be structured in different ways—one way is for the structure to ‘ride on the back’ of the existing organisational structure, and another is to set up specific structures for selecting stories. The first level of selection includes the storytellers, or beneficiaries.  They discuss stories within their area and submit the most significant of these to the level above, which then selects the most significant of all the significant change stories submitted by the lower levels and passes this on to the next level.


In the following diagram, you can see that MSC stories were collected from three stakeholders: women, volunteers and teachers. Each stakeholder group was asked to choose the most significant change for their group, and then the staff used these in a workshop to choose the most significant story.


In a flat structure, different groups can choose from the same stories and share which story they chose and why. This can highlight the different values of each group, and encourage conversations about different values.


MSC Step 4 Part 1 (Video transcript)

MSC Step 4 Part 2 (Video transcript)

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Jess Dart sq

Dr Jess Dart

CEO & Founder

Inventor of practical methodologies and highly demanded facilitator, Jess navigates complexity with comfort and helps her clients to become clear about their desired outcomes and how to get there.

Recipient of the 2018 AES Award for outstanding contribution to evaluation, Jess has over 25 years experience in evaluating and designing social change initiatives and strategies in Australia and overseas.

In October 2005, Jess founded Clear Horizon Consulting and is now CEO. She is also a board member of the Australasian Evaluation society.

Jess is passionate about developing and designing real world evaluation and strategy for social justice and sustainability. She particularly works with systems change interventions, large scale strategy and social innovation. After completing her PhD she co-authored the Most Significant Change (MSC) guide alongside Dr Rick Davies, which is now translated into 12 different languages.

MSC is well suited to evaluation in the complex emergent context. The latest innovation by Jess, Collaborative Outcomes Reporting (COR), is a collaborative form of impact evaluation.

Jess is also an active mum and has two teenage boys. In a quiet moment, she loves reading far-future science fiction and enjoys long distance running.

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