Measuring social impacts in conservation: Experience of using the Most Significant Change method

  • Wilder L
  • Walpole M
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The ability to measure and demonstrate the impact of conservation interventions is critical for management, accountability, and lesson-learning, yet most organizations struggle to implement appropriate, effective monitoring and evaluation. This is particularly so for community-based projects and livelihoods-focused interventions that require the use of Social science methods unfamiliar to most conservation biologists. Quantitative surveys and indicator-based approaches are commonly used but are limited in their utility, and ignore a wealth of potentially valuable qualitative and anecdotal information on impact and change. Here we describe a method for standardizing the collection and analysis of stories of change that originated in, and is commonly employed by, the development sector. Trials of the Use of the Most Significant Change method in a range of Fauna & Flora International's partnership projects revealed not only its value Lis a monitoring tool alongside more familiar surveys and quantitative data collection but also as a participator, management tool that improved staff capacity and project adaptive management and responsiveness. Although initially time-consuming to establish and implement, it has been embraced by these projects as a beneficial addition to monitoring and evaluation. The consequent interest it has raised amongst other conservation practitioners suggests that it warrants further testing and application. Conservationists would do well to learn from the tools and experiences of the development sector when exploring the social impacts Of conservation projects.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Community-based conservation
  • Impact assessment
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Most Significant Change
  • Social science

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  • Lizzie Wilder

  • Matt Walpole

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