CARE recognizes the need to clarify and understand how complex and emergent change happens and to test our theories of change, which is why CARE has begun to explore various theory-based methods such as Outcome Mapping, Outcome Harvesting, Most Significant Change and Contribution Tracing. Unlike traditional approaches, theory-based approaches “assess the extent to which an intervention has produced or influenced observed results.” The influence of context matters greatly in these approaches and the emphasis on attribution, rather than contribution. The **CARE International MEAL** Approach, Principles and Operational Standards for Projects and Initiatives guidance document reminds us that MEAL systems should track qualitative and quantitative changes at impact and outcome levels in order to understand how and why change happens, and if and how CARE is contributing to significant and lasting change. Theory-based methods can help explain what worked (planned or unplanned), how it worked, and why, especially in the complex contexts we have mapped out in our stakeholder mapping and analysis and our theories of change. Recognizing the need to clarify and understand how complex and emergent change happens, in order to test our theories of change, CARE has begun to explore various theory-based methods such as Outcome Mapping, Outcome Harvesting, Most Significant Change and Contribution Tracing.

Qualitative Methods Guidance Note for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) at CARE


Examples of Qualitative Methods used at CARE
Below are several examples of how regions and countries have utilized qualitative data methods at CARE.

Outcome Mapping
Outcome Mapping can also be used to help track and explain household-level our intra-community behavioral changes. And this can be significant in terms of understanding shifting gender norms at a local level. In the Pathways Program in Mali, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, India, and Bangladesh, CARE used Outcome Mapping at mid-term to help evaluate men’s behavioral changes around production, access to land, and workload sharing, for example. The process helped the project to refine its indicators around behavioral change and show the relative significance of different changes.

CARE Pathways Program Mid-Term Reviews

CARE Denmark: Towards learning centred planning, monitoring, and evaluation (PME)

Outcome Harvesting
The Outcome Harvest method is particularly helpful in analyzing outcomes of a project, rather than focusing on activities and interventions. It works backwards from the outcomes to interventions and activities that contributed to the outcomes. In the West African Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program (WA-WASH) in Ghana, CARE used Outcome Harvesting to determine what social, economic, health and behavioral outcomes at the household and community levels have resulted for the 6 interventions areas of the program. This OH aims to capture the changes in social norms, economic and social status, and behavior as a result of WA-WASH in the Upper West region of Ghana.



Contribution Tracing
CARE has used Contribution Tracing, which uses both Process Tracing and Bayesian (Confidence) Updating, in the Ghana Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms (GSAM) project in Ghana and the Journey for Advancement in Transparency, Representation and Accountability (JATRA) project in Bangladesh. The aim has been to better understand the responsiveness of public authorities related to infrastructure investment and budget allocation, respectively. The method was particularly useful in refining the projects’ theories of change, in focusing data collection on the strongest evidence (highest “probative value”), and in defining the sequence of events towards intended outcomes.

CARE Governance Wiki on Contribution Tracing


Most Significant Change
CARE has employed Most Significant Change to support various projects in the Andes, including the Strengthening Andean Organizations in Public Policy Advocacy in Food Security in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru project. The method was particularly useful in identifying the most (and least) successful practices which led to changes and lessons learned in the process. It also helped provide a clear framework for guiding questions in Focus Group Discussions (FGDs).

CI Change Story Tool