Perspective Matters

  • By Kantahyanee Murray, November 12, 2018

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Expands the Bench in Evaluation

Would the philanthropic field benefit from increasing the inclusion of evaluators of color in evaluation practice?

To the team at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

That’s why the Foundation has invested over the last four years in diversifying the pool of research and evaluation experts and develop a related referral network. We believe by increasing the number of social sector evaluators from underrepresented communities, we also increase the likelihood of methods, analyses and interpretation that offer more relevance, application and, ultimately, benefit to communities we serve.

With an initiative called Expanding the Bench®, the Foundation has leveraged the talents of academically trained evaluators from underrepresented communities through two programs: Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) and the Advancing Collaborative Evaluation (ACE) Network.

LEEAD has brought more than 30 mid-career evaluation scholars from fields such as sociology, public health, economics, psychology and nursing together for further professional development and work with senior-level mentors for practicum experiences in evaluation.

The ACE Network includes nearly 100 evaluators and evaluation firms from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, making it simpler for staff in philanthropy, think tanks, nonprofits and research firms to identify and engage diverse evaluators.

Networking, referrals and repeat contracts are how many in philanthropy find the evaluators they need. While efficient, these hiring practices limit the opportunity to expand the pool of evaluators to those already “in.”

Lessons Learned

After three years of working to expand the bench of evaluators, the Foundation has learned a few things. In sharing those lessons here, we invite others in philanthropy to join us as we apply them to our work.

  1. Demand is as important as supply. To date, most of our efforts have focused on supply: expanding the pool of qualified evaluators. Now, the goal is to grow the demand through outreach, connecting interested parties with the “supply” network – meaning people who hire evaluators in philanthropy and nonprofits.

  2. Foster community, not just a network. We’ve heard from participants in LEEAD and ACE, as well as our evaluation peers in philanthropy, that they often feel isolated and desire more in-person connection with each other. Beyond the professional value in the network, the goal is to nurture those personal connections.

  3. A field-building movement is needed to sustain this path toward more equitable evaluation. While one foundation can provide the impetus, this work is bigger than a singular effort. It needs a broad coalition.

Transitioning to The Field

One step we’ve taken based on these lessons is to transition LEEAD and ACE Network from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to a new managing partner, the D.C.-based minority-owned business Change Matrix. Change Matrix will bring insight, infrastructure and complementary strategies to both efforts, and our hope is that this transition to the broader philanthropic field will allow Expanding the Bench to achieve greater scope and scale.

The organization is well-aligned with the mission of these programs and will receive support from the Foundation during the transition. “We deeply believe that relationships matter,” says founding partner Rachele E. Espiritu. “We recognize the importance of creating a shared language and building common ground.”

Join Us

Do you have experience building demand for new practices or approaches in philanthropy? Have your own stories to share of intentional efforts to hire evaluators from underrepresented communities? Please join the upcoming GEO Member Call where we’ll brainstorm ideas for addressing these and other “demand-building” questions.

Interested in joining Casey Foundation as a co-investor in this effort? We’ve committed to raising $500,000 in the next year to support the transition of these programs to Change Matrix. Click here to schedule a call with me to learn more about co-investment opportunities.

Looking for your next evaluator? Contact us for a custom search of our ACE Network.

Kantahyanee Murray, PhD is a Senior Research Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.