Celebrating Community and Story at AEA

Expanding the Bench® (ETB) had the opportunity to attend the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Conference this past week in Indianapolis, IN. As the world continues to navigate our new normal in a semi-post-COVID environment, we value opportunities to come together as a team and as an evaluation community. This conference proved to be transformative for us for many reasons, but we’d like to uplift three particular highlights for our team.

Planning for the Future of Expanding the Bench

The ETB Team took advantage of the opportunity to meet in person to schedule time for strategic planning, not only for 2024 but for the greater vision of the future of the Initiative. This was a generative space where we were able to outline our dreams for the Initiative, the ETB community, and the field of evaluation. Together, we discussed our “north star” that guides the ETB work and decided on programming for 2024 (more to come!), as well as reviewed our history and what brought us to this stage. This led us to the decision to review and update our Theory of Change with more community member input. We look forward to this process and inviting you into this journey.

Celebrating Community

During AEA, we convened for the second annual ETB Gathering! This event brought together community members of the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program, Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Members, and Funders of Evaluation to network, mingle, and dance. Attendees were introduced to the new ACE Network Members welcomed in 2023 and the Cohort 5 Scholars. Chandria Jones, PhD and A. Christson Adedoyin, PhD, two of the three editors of Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation: Visions and Voices of Emerging Scholars, joined us to discuss the process of and impetus for publishing this groundbreaking book. With food and drinks in hand, our community members built relationships and danced the night away.

Learning From Your Stories

ETB community members showed out in great numbers at the conference. Through the theme of “The Power of Story”, community members delivered presentations, shared posters and papers, collaborated on panels, and led plenaries. Our team learned so much from these sessions and will be taking our learnings to evolve our personal and organizational evaluation practices. If you presented at AEA and have any resources or highlights you’d like to share through the blog, social media, or newsletters, please let us know at team@expandingthebench.org.

We are looking forward to the AEA Conference in Portland, OR in 2024!