ETB Blogs

Cultivating Commitment and Community Through ETB Coffee Breaks

This ETB Team member blog was written by ETB Project Coordinator Nancy Vang

Expanding the Bench® (ETB) is an evaluation initiative that supports a culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) ecosystem. ETB engages diverse evaluators and Funders of Evaluation to ensure that power is distributed equitably to lead change toward justice. To dismantle traditional power structures within the evaluation ecosystem, ETB connects Funders of Evaluation and Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Evaluators through one-on-one coffee breaks. ETB Coffee Breaks are intended to serve as a “get-to-know-you” opportunity focused on networking and relationship-building while focusing on the practice of CREE.

These are an opportunity for authentic connections among professionals dedicated to CREE practice. Senior Associate Director at Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) and former Senior Research Associate at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Dr. Kantahyanee Murray expressed why Coffee Breaks were meaningful for her.

“I have spoken with talented evaluators across the country and learned about the interesting and innovative work they are doing. Engaging community and participants in evaluation in ways that facilitate their ownership and authentic inclusion in decision-making tables have been consistent themes in our conversations,” Murray says. “These discussions have helped to stretch my thinking and spurred some needed reflection.”

She went on to learn about ACE Evaluation Network Members’ “innovative” work in areas like the development of useful tools to create social change within her role as a Funder of Evaluation. She even spoke fondly of being challenged by evaluators she spoke with during the Coffee Breaks.

“One evaluator challenged me to think about our equitable future, what it looks like, and how we can get there through visioning, model development, and evidence-building,” Murray says, adding that, when appropriate, she facilitated connections to other organizations and Funders of Evaluation.
Dr. Marcia Taborga, ACE Network Member and Owner and CEO of Seedling Consulting Group, met Murray through a Coffee Break. She echoed Murray’s thoughts and provided her own Evaluator perspective.

“I find it challenging to get up the courage to ‘sell myself’ so I was anxious about attending the Coffee Break even though my brain knew it was a great opportunity,” she said. “I imagined I was ‘supposed’ to promote myself and Seedling Consulting Group but I decided to do the opposite. I’d show up honestly and even focus on my current struggles with what I still don’t know.” Dr. Taborga shared that making impactful change requires embracing risk as well as support.

“Of course, not all my risks work out. This is why these Coffee Breaks and the ACE Network are so invaluable. They give us a chance to be human together so we can all go out and have a collective impact much greater than anything we could do on our own.”

The field needs to dismantle racist policies, practices, and programs and intentionally seek evaluators from diverse backgrounds who practice CREE. Coffee Breaks are a great way to continue building connections between evaluators and funders to change the evaluation ecosystem.

For Funders of Evaluation interested in joining ETB Coffee Breaks, sign up here.

To learn more about Dr. Kantahyanee Murray, connect with her on LinkedIn. To learn more about Dr. Marcia Taborga, connect with her on LinkedIn. Interested in staying up to date on all things ETB? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, Bench (Re)Marks.