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

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In the video above, you learned about three additional elements to the MSC process, including:

  1. Verification
  2. Record keeping
  3. Secondary analysis


In the right context, verification can be very useful. There is always a risk, especially in larger organisations, that the reported changes may not reflect what has actually happened or that a reported change may be even more important than is initially evident from the way in which the change was documented. Important details and wider implications may lie hidden until further investigation of the reported event.

To verify or not?

Within MSC the process of review and selection of stories provides a natural mechanism to check the validity of stories.  When stories are selected, they are vetted to some degree for accuracy by those who selected them. Where most of the people selecting the stories have background knowledge of the events described in the stories, it may be sufficient to accept their ‘vetting’ as verification. This situation might arise in smallscale projects or in larger programs where the beneficiaries are represented in the selection process.

However, when participants know that there are procedures for verifying stories, this can have several consequences. Contributors of stories are more likely to be careful about the way they document their stories, and this can help improve their overall quality. The existence of a verification process may also give external parties more confidence in the significance of the findings of the MSC approach.

Record Keeping

It is good practice to keep records of your stories.  This can include developing a supporting spreadsheet containing data about each of the SC stories, one per row. Each column entry can provide the following types of information:

  • A serial number for each story
  • The title of each story
  • The date it was recorded
  • Some details about the storyteller: job, gender, region, etc
  • The date of the selection process(es)
  • The outcome of the selection process
  • Any recommendation made for follow-up action and what action was taken

Secondary analysis

You can choose to analyse the all the stories together – both those selected and those not selected or just those that have been selected.  This can be done in a variety of ways such as

  • To produce summary statements about the most significant changes taking place overall [using classic summary by selection]
  • To identify differences and similarities between different stakeholders in terms of their views of what are MSCs [using heterarchical selection]
  • To identity types of MSCs [using free sorting, plus network analysis]
  • To identify the most significant differences between types of MSCs [using hierarchical card sorting]
  • To analyse the consequences of the MSCs [using evolving storylines]
  • To analyse the causes of the MSCs [by developing network models of the relationships between the stories]


MSC Step 6 (Video transcript)

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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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