This post is about the Greater Boston Evaluation Network’s (GBEN) journey to forming and growing as a non-profit. This post is written by Min Ma, President of GBEN, and Luba Falk Feigenberg, member of the DEI Committee. As a volunteer-driven organization we strive to match our vision of a diverse and inclusive community of evaluation practitioners in Greater Boston that promotes excellence, innovation, and equity in evaluation.
Building infrastructure to support the work
GBEN originally formed in 2007 as an informal monthly roundtable for evaluators to exchange ideas. From 2013-2017, we grew in significant ways: becoming an AEA affiliate, creating by-laws, naming officers, and launching strategic planning cycles. By 2017, we needed more infrastructure to enable and sustain our volunteer-led work; hence filing 501c3 status and collecting membership dues. In our 2019 strategic planning, we reviewed our mission statement and discussed what it would mean to name and include “equity.”
Spoiler alert: Adding the word “equity” in our mission statement has led us to:
- Transform our organizational structure by creating a standing DEI committee that cuts across all aspects of our work,
- Invest in infrastructure that works for our volunteers by revamping our membership management and communications systems, and
- Build partnerships that scaffold a more inclusive evaluation career pipeline, create communities of practice, and offer expanded programming around issues related to equity and equitable evaluation, e.g., SCENE Collab with Boston College, partnership with NU-PEL.
As a 501c3, GBEN always had committees for membership, communications, programming, and governance. When addressing DEI, we debated whether to create a separate entity or embed DEI in existing committees. Ultimately, our DEI committee is a distinct body that engages with all other organizational efforts. Giving the DEI committee this protected space allows the work to be more integrated and collaborative, without DEI existing as a separate agenda item or being diluted. The DEI committee partners with other committees on specific projects and helps center DEI in all discussions.
How we Define Inclusive Collaboration
We apply adrienne maree brown’s lessons on emergent strategy to establish ways of working together. This framework fosters meaningful collaboration across our volunteer teams and supports our work toward a shared vision.
The process of creating a DEI committee and DEI Strategic Plan encouraged us to slow down and consider how we collaborate as well as our vision for equity and inclusion for our local evaluation ecosystem. These conversations have also led to developing DEI guiding principles for decision making that align our values and principles across committees.
Each committee has its own personality and cycles/patterns of working, but all are vibrant and are where most of the work happens. Committee co-chairs convene with our Governance team every other month to review progress towards our strategic vision and identify ways to collaborate or streamline across committees.
We practice what we preach in evaluation and adopt cycles of collective reflection: What have we accomplished? What can we celebrate about the ways we’ve worked together? We also ask the hard questions: What didn’t go as intended? What do we want to change about the way we work together?
Organizational change work requires significant energy and time to engage thoughtfully. As a member-driven organization, it’s a big ask to serve in a volunteer capacity and this is often in tension with our desire to elevate BIPOC members in leadership. Our DEI principles and shared values help us navigate big questions. How can we make that ask more balanced? What benefits can we derive for our volunteers’ time? How much should we lead versus make space for others to lead?
Read adrienne marie brown’s emergent strategy to understand how we approach collaboration and manage change.
The American Evaluation Association is hosting the Greater Boston Evaluation Network (GBEN) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from GBEN members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.