Getting to Know Expanding the Bench
As the Expanding the Bench® (ETB) Initiative continues to grow, so does our staff and community. As we welcome new Project Associate Reiki Anderson on board, this is a perfect time to reintroduce ETB as she and new community members get to know the Initiative. Reiki sat down with Associate Project Director for the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program, Christina Davis, and Associate Project Director for the Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network, Angel Villalobos, to offer their discourse on the impact and reach that ETB has on community members, culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) evaluators, organizations, and funders. Their knowledge and experience in this work are irrefutably needed and impactful.
Reiki: Is there anything that you feel people who are new to the field of evaluation and/or are interested in the Initiative should know?
Christina: There is so much that ETB brings into the field of evaluation. We have fostered a diverse community of evaluators passionate about practicing CREE and ensuring that evaluations are executed in an equitable way that actively engages with the communities they serve. We have many opportunities to connect with the ETB Team and engage with other like-minded evaluators seeking to foster meaningful relationships and advance the field of evaluation.
Angel: The ETB Initiative is made up of so many incredible, passionate, and equity-driven champions of evaluation. It is an initiative that promotes collaboration and connection amongst racially and ethnically diverse evaluators and Funders of Evaluation through a variety of ways that are organic, innovative, and informed by those who are part of ETB. Working alongside colleagues of the internal ETB Team over the past year, I have experienced their commitment and passion, which mirror that of the ETB community. We strive to connect and build relationships with folks in these spaces and welcome the opportunity to support and promote their professional and personal accomplishments. This work is difficult, challenging, and can also be alienating. We hope that people can feel some sense of support, community, and camaraderie within ETB.
Reiki: Why is culturally responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) so important?
Christina: As a Black evaluator, I often was one of the few women of color in the field, and coming into the ETB space introduced many opportunities to engage with other BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] evaluators and learn about CREE. As Associate Director of the LEEAD program, I have been a witness to the ways that CREE principles have advanced the field for BIPOC evaluators; there are so many great stories from former LEEAD Scholars who were successfully able to introduce CREE into their evaluations. The program was created because evaluation-supporting systems perpetuate assumptions and lead to community harm when they do not use a CREE lens.
Angel: My professional experience is rooted in learning and the centering of community. I have worked with funders of evaluation, evaluators, and academic researchers, many of which strive to prioritize equity and community voice. For so long, these spaces have operated within systems of oppression that have purposefully erased the learnings, culture, and identities of racially and ethnically diverse communities. Personally, I see CREE as a vehicle for change — a practice that we can integrate into all aspects of evaluation to disrupt these systems and truly center and work alongside, and in service of, community. As Associate Director for the ACE Evaluation Network, CREE plays a central role in how we engage, build, and bridge connections amongst Network Members and the wider ETB community.
Reiki: Why should organizations/foundations become more involved with the Initiative?
Christina: We love to collaborate with other evaluators to engage diverse perspectives and create a more equitable evaluation ecosystem. We are excited about opportunities to partner together to lead change toward racial equity and justice.
Angel: By design, the ETB Initiative can only thrive and make a significant impact in the field of evaluation when it uplifts and centers community and helps build relationships with partners. We welcome committed organizations, foundations, and federal partners to learn and grow alongside our commitment to culturally responsive and equitable evaluation as we collectively work to build a more equitable evaluation ecosystem.
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