Monitoring and Evaluation: EPAfrica’s trial of the Most Significant Change Technique

Why monitoring & evaluation is important

To be effective, a charity has to understand the practical outcome of its work on the ground. This means that it’s critical that Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) are carried out properly. Without the true appreciation of the changes brought about by the charity that good M&E gives us, all that remains are educated guesses and opinions. This is why the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique was developed and implemented.

Outline of MSC process

The process is simple: after the summer project has been completed, Project Workers are tasked with writing down the most significant changes that they experienced during their time in East Africa along with the specific aspect of their work that prompted the change and how this change will fare in the long term. All stories are then reviewed by a panel and, after discussion, the relative value of the reported changes can be weighed up.

Results observed

This year, the MSC technique brought to light a number of changes that had occurred in schools and local communities due to the work undertaken by Project Workers. These include: a change in the attitude to clean water and appreciation of proper water treatment; the creation of momentum within the community for positive change; improved ownership of lessons by teachers who became more enthusiastic about teaching; a change in the attitude held by teachers and students towards libraries to one of respect and value; improved motivation for both teachers and students; an improved understanding of HIV and other STIs and introducing greater openness into schools through promoting guidance and counselling.

Recurring themes

Although all of the perceived changes are different on many levels, there were some recurring themes. Of particular note is sustainability, a key focus of EPAfrica. The majority of the MSCs incorporated a significant appreciation of the potential long-term benefits of the changes.

Quotes or notes that standout

The words of one student really illustrate the significance of the positive change that Project Workers can help encourage: “Thanks, before we had secrets in our hearts that we could not share, but now we don’t have to hide them anymore”. In the school in question, Project Workers had implemented a guidance and counselling service and promoted an atmosphere of greater openness in a bid to improve mental wellbeing. It is clear from this quote that the desired effect was achieved.

What the MSC method aims to achieve with these results

Aside from allowing Project Workers to truly grasp the impact that they have had in the schools in which they have been operating, the stories told and the changes observed allow EPAfrica to paint a picture for the outside world of what the charity is working towards. It is our hope that the MSC protocol will allow potential Project Workers to see how much of a difference they can make in such a short period of time. All of the changes were observed while the Project Workers were still in East Africa. The reality of the matter is that even more significant changes are probable further down the line. The stories gathered so far suggest that Project Workers can encourage big changes in schools; through the MSC process, and our wider M&E efforts, we can improve the way we operate, and make those changes even bigger.