ETB Blogs

A Lot Can Happen on a Coffee Break

This ETB Team member blog was written by ETB Project Manager, Karla Mendez

In 2021, Expanding the Bench® (ETB) hosted four Coffee Break sessions — one for every quarter of the year. These virtual 1:1 connections were offered to Funders of Evaluation and Evaluators from the Advancing Culturally-Responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network — a community of racially and ethnically diverse evaluators who have experience in and a strong commitment to the practice of culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE).

In total, 158 Coffee Break connections were made in 2021! High-level learnings and takeaways are presented below:

1. Funders of Evaluation need to expand their personal networks to diversify the field of evaluation.

Every year, the Expanding the Bench (ETB) Team hosts dozens of conversations with different evaluation stakeholders. From these conversations, we’ve learned that many Funders of Evaluation contract with Evaluators they’ve worked with before. A sense of familiarity and quality control are met when Funders return to contract with the “same” Evaluators.

But this becomes problematic when one considers that personal networks are not often ethno-racially diverse.[1] Limited social and professional spheres contribute to a state of homogeneity in the workplace. In the field of evaluation, this means the voices and lived experiences of ethnically and racially diverse evaluators are often missing.

2. Interpersonal connections are formed through ETB Coffee Breaks, leading Funders of Evaluation and Evaluators to develop meaningful relationships.

By joining a virtual Coffee Break, Funders of Evaluation and Evaluators engage in a low-pressure ‘get-to-know-you’ chat. And while these discussions may lead to direct conversation about work, proposals, and contracts, this is not a required part of the conversation, which means the participants are just able to enjoy one another’s company, learn more about each other, share stories, and explore interests.

3. Professional partnerships have resulted as part of ETB Coffee Breaks!

By grabbing a cup of coffee, Funders of Evaluation and Evaluators engage in informal chats that develop into relationships. These relationships expand personal networks and help spawn inclusivity, particularly in matters of career development and advancement.

We have heard several anecdotal stories from both Funders and Evaluators around how these initial chats helped illuminate career alignment between Funder and Evaluator and, consequently, opportunities to discuss and engage in professional evaluation partnerships!

In summary, a lot can happen on a Coffee Break! We’ve received overwhelmingly positive responses from both Funder and Evaluator participants. In fact, 88% of surveyed Funders and 97% of surveyed Evaluators stated that they would sign up for ETB Coffee Breaks again in the future. In 2022, we plan to offer four new quarterly Coffee Break sessions. We invite all interested Funders of Evaluation to reach out to us at for more information and to sign up!

Learn more about Coffee Breaks!