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ETB Blogs

Five Things We Learned From the Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) Learning Series 

By London Losey (Former ACE Evaluation Network Director and current ETB Groupie)  

Hi Expanding the Bench® (ETB) friends! London here. It’s been a few months since I stepped away from daily ETB work. You are always on my mind and in my heart, so, in some ways, I never left. And, secretly (well, maybe not so much now that I’m writing it in this blog), I have a goal to sneak back into the work every now and again. I just can’t get enough of the amazing things you all do in connection to and as part of the ETB community! 

As to why I am showing up here today, ETB Communications Specialist Eve Kucharski recently asked me to write a blog about the ETB team’s learnings related to the Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation1 (CREE) Learning Series. Of course, I said yes, and then I had to think about how to put everything we’ve learned into a clear and useful format. I decided to condense our learnings into five key themes – mostly because five seemed like a reasonable number to share (honestly, there’s so much more we and probably you could say) – and here they are: 

  1. The CREE Learning Series reminds us to be mindful of the time, effort, and funds necessary to launch and host a learning series. There are many adjectives that can be used to describe the ETB Team and one of the main ones I like to use is ambitious. When it was suggested that we host a CREE Learning Series open to the entire ETB community – new and seasoned evaluators, Funders of Evaluation, Partners of Evaluation, students, and more – we did not hesitate to say yes. While many of our team members have been involved in other learning initiatives before, this was new ground for the ETB team in 2021. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we invited others to do the work with us. We didn’t have a budget for it, so we scraped up some in-kind dollars to offer stipends to Learning Guides, who helped develop video content and support learners during live discussion sessions. The timeline we set forth to roll out the video content and host the live sessions hit some snags, so we ended up delaying the initial launch by a few months. We also found that our initial time estimates to develop and produce a five- to 10-minute video was off, and that to adequately account for Learning Guides’ time and effort, as well as that of our team, we really needed to create a system for drawing income from the Series. These learnings led to a more robust process for scheduling, marketing, and compensating people for their time related to the Series in 2022, and they will guide any future planning processes.  
  1. The CREE Learning Series demonstrates incredible value in developing and hosting a shared learning space. This is one of those learnings I think we all knew, and that really came to the forefront with the CREE Learning Series. First, I cannot express enough my gratitude for the Learning Guides who contributed content and supported learners in the past two years. Their knowledge and expertise in CREE runs deep, and we have found the content they developed to be relevant and relatable to learners over time. They showed up to the live discussions with humility and a desire to learn alongside others. This was matched by the registered learners who brought curiosity and a mindset for growth that really helped establish the inclusiveness of the learning space. 
  1. The CREE Learning Series does a good job at creating a shared understanding of CREE. The idea for the CREE Learning Series emerged from a Community of Practice (CoP) that ETB hosted with Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Members and Leaders in Equity Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Alumni and Mentors. The practice has always centered around creating a shared understanding of CREE within the evaluation ecosystem. While the Series does not meet every learner’s needs and priorities (more on that next), it has been successful in bringing together people with a wide variety of lived experience to share their experience with CREE and to learn from others. Specifically, attendees have learned what it means to not just do the work of CREE, but to also be within it.   
  1. The CREE Learning Series in not enough. Much of the feedback ETB receives about the CREE Learning Series content is positive and confirms my above point about it doing a good job of creating a shared understanding of CREE among a diverse group of learners. That said, there are some learners, particularly those with an advanced evaluation practice, who have noted the content feels too basic and/or is not deep enough. The ETB team spent time in 2022 revising the live discussion session structure and small group time to provide more opportunities for learners to practice with the content and explore topics in a deeper, more meaningful way. In our marketing messages for the Series, we also emphasized the content was geared toward those new to CREE. The feedback that followed the 2022 sessions indicated people’s interest in ETB hosting a CREE Learning Series Part 2 in the future that includes more advanced content and a focus on CREE practice (“how to”). Additionally, we have learned that having a sole focus on CREE leaves out content and learning related to Culturally Responsive Indigenous Evaluation© (CRIE). ETB is currently planning for how we can support: 1) more advanced CREE; and 2) CRIE learning. Stay tuned and know that we are working with trusted and knowledgeable colleagues toward addressing these interests over the next few years. 
  1. The CREE Learning Series reinforces the ongoing and evolutionary nature of CREE. Since ETB began conceptualization of the CREE Learning Series, we have kept a running learning log. This log documents our growth and pain points with the Series, as well as opportunities for us to pursue in the future. It reminds us that as one of the ETB Directors says, “We may not always get it right, but we keep trying.” In many ways the CREE Learning Series models a distinct set of principles; has provided us space and grace to acknowledge our mistakes and grow from them; reminds us to be flexible; and it encourages us to continue our work with ETB to advance equity by informing strategy, program improvement, decision-making, policy formation, and change. And who in the ETB community doesn’t want to do that? So, if you haven’t participated in the CREE Learning Series yet – or even if you have – add it to your bucket list for 2023 and share your learnings with us along the way!