Learning about Gender Equality

“Testing the ability of the Most Significant Change Methodology to make cultural changes visible and learn about gender equality”

Published by Oxfam Novib, 2012 English version  French version


“Monitoring and evaluation systems make it possible for organizations to determine whether their programs are having the desired impact and achieving the changes they set out to create. These systems help us determine whether we are taking the right actions to reach our various objectives. Consequently, we can adjust our strategies accordingly  and be held accountable for our work.


Throughout the international development sector, organizations are struggling to build effective and efficient monitoring and evaluation systems that facilitate useful data collection and analysis. One of the areas in which these systems are providing limited insight, however, is that of cultural change in gender relations.

Oxfam Novib’s Gender Mainstreaming and Leadership Trajectory aims to incite cultural change, but, until recently, the monitoring and evaluation tools at hand were not able to capture those changes. In a search to find appropriate tools to make cultural change visible, we experimented with  the Most Significant Change methodology. This report presents the main findings of this action research as well as the associated lessons that may be beneficial to others facing similar issues.

Through this experiment, we have come to the conclusion that the Most Significant Change methodology brings additional value to our current monitoring and evaluation system and to that of our partner organization.The methodology helped us collect evidence of behavioural and attitudinal changes regarding gender equality. It encouraged critical reflection and learning on the way we look at these types of changes and on the strategies we use to promote gender equality.

It has been exciting to hear from women who are no longer looked at with disdain, but recognized as important agents of change. Equally encouraging were the stories of men who changed their perception of the abilities of their female colleagues and now see them as equally capable.

We also realized that this methodology brings its own challenges. Time, as well as human and financial resources, has to be made available to put the methodology into practice. Using the methodology also requires a new way of working. Instead of dealing with a linear chain of results, there is a need to find space to have an open discussion about significant changes that can be attributed to a program and how to support these changes. An open attitude towards discussing strategies and learning from successes and mistakes is essential. These are serious challenges in a rapidly changing development sector that faces an ever growing demand for quick and quantifiable results and increasing competition for available funding.

As agents of development, Oxfam Novib and our partner organizations are driven to support positive change. We are continuously seeking new ways of coming closer to our goal: a just world without poverty. The experiment with the Most Significant Change methodology has inspired us to rethink and improve our ways  of working. I hope this publication will do the same for you.”

Adrie Papma, Business Director, Oxfam Novib

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