“Everyone we spoke to was deeply committed and actively advocating both within their organization and among partners and peers in the work for a more equitable approach to defining and determining value in their work.”
“Change is hard. Even when you believe that the change is required, there is a pacing element to engaging others in change.”
Over the last year, the fundraising arm of the Expanding the Bench™ (ETB) Team, has been so fortunate to spend time meetings with funders. By funders, we mean those who have generously donated financial support to ETB activities (ETB Funding Partners) and funders of evaluation. The purpose of these meetings was to inform and engage people in ETB in a variety of ways, including supporting Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Scholars, using and promoting the Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Database, and participating in field building efforts to pursue culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE). In our efforts to provide an overview of the initiative or update folks already familiar, we learned a lot. The following is a summary of our learnings from 2019 from ETB Funding Partners and those likely to fund evaluation.
The first major theme we observed: Everyone we spoke to was deeply committed and actively advocating both within their organization and among partners and peers in the work for a more equitable approach to defining and determining value in their work. While they described different stages of conceptualization and implementation, there was the pervasive acknowledgement that measurement, evaluation, and learning must include a diverse set of voices to be reliable and trustworthy.
We also noticed that the funders with whom we spoke are eager to learn along with us. No one we spoke with professed to be an expert in the practice of CREE. They wanted to know how others were integrating a (CREE) lens into the internal evaluation of strategies and how they were promoting CREE among their grantees. They were interested in the barriers we encountered and the lessons we and their peers learned along the way.
For the most part, though not always directly stated, funders acknowledged that there is risk in moving beyond the relationships with contractors and consultants that they know and have come to rely on. These relationships have been built over time and ETB is asking funders to go outside of their familiar orbit and get to know evaluators that are new to them. As we build up and promote the ACE Evaluation Network Database, we are learning about habits that will have to change, efforts that are required, and risks that will be undertaken to realize the change envisioned when you increase the number of evaluators from diverse backgrounds who practice CREE.
Change is hard. Even when you believe that the change is required, there is a pacing element to engaging others in change. Many of our funders feel supported by their larger organization in committing to equity. Many are introducing and encouraging their organizations to consider how equity is integrated into their work. Regardless of how ready the organization is, the pace is dictated by a group of people rather than one committed funder. We had a lot of conversations with funders about how we can support their internal advocacy efforts for ETB and CREE.
And speaking of the group, increasing the number of and access to diverse evaluators who practice CREE is a collective effort. Most funders with whom we spoke are aware of related programs and initiatives with similar goals. They want to see us work together in concert and they want to find ways to join us. Success in changing a field, requires a whole field building effort. We are grateful for the time, thought partnering, support, and feedback as we engage in the larger movement. We intend to learn and invite others to learn and grow with us.