Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

John Vogelsang


Today, development organizations compete for funding, and donor organizations are increasingly specific about requirements of grantees. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is now an important part of many donors’ requirements and NGOs’ organizational strategies. In addition to the traditional emphasis on accountability to the donor, evaluation utilization is increasingly emphasized by NGOs and donors alike. Evaluation utilization can be defined either as the utility of the findings (product) or process use of evaluations. The latter leads to a focus on evaluation’s value as a learning process. Process use frequently involves broadening the participation of stakeholder groups and goes hand in hand with the objective of building “evaluative capacity.” Capacity building is an especially relevant angle of inquiry in the context of nonformal education programs that have as their objective increased skill and empowerment for program beneficiaries.

This paper describes a case study of one organization, Tostan, and will focus on a pilot of the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique as an M&E system component of one project, Empowering Communities to Empower Girls. In all its programming, Tostan takes a grassroots, culturally relevant and participatory approach with a focus on empowerment and community ownership of activities and outcomes. The specific project was a pilot of new programmatic content on gender with the intent of determining what potentially differential results might follow. MSC was chosen for its appropriateness to the programmatic approach as well as the organizational context and for the information it could provide as well as the learning process it offered.

This paper contributes to the growing group of practitioners adapting and applying the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique. I explore the utility that the MSC process and products had for each of four stakeholder groups: the donor, organizational leaders at Tostan, project field staff, and project participants. I conclude with a broader discussion of organizational learning, participation and capacity-building and provide specific recommendations for the use of MSC as well as more general recommendations for a process of increasing evaluative capacity and participation at Tostan.


Community-Based Learning


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