Expanding the Bench


In 2014, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), in collaboration with other funders launched Expanding the Bench (ETB), an initiative to increase diversity in the evaluation and research field.  ETB is based upon belief that information and data have power to shape policy, programs, and practice and that evaluators from diverse and underrepresented communities increase the likelihood that methods, analyses and interpretation benefit the communities they serve. ETB includes two main component parts, Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD), and Advancing Collaborative Evaluation (ACE) Network.


After four years of managing the initiative, the Casey Foundation saw a need to increase the reach and scale of ETB. Rather than continuing to house the initiative, the Casey Foundation took the innovative step of seeking a mission-aligned organization from the field to assume its ownership.  In 2018, AECF identified Change Matrix (CM) as the organization to which they could transition implementation of ETB.  CM is a women-owned, minority-owned small business that has been weaving a focus on evaluation, addressing disparities and equity, cultural and linguistic competence, and stakeholder engagement into their work at the community state and national level.  For over 10 years CM has motivated, managed and measured change for systems that improve lives in communities. Learn more at about us



Evaluators partner to drive social change and equity.


To provide a platform and support for diverse evaluators and consumers of evaluation to value, practice, and promote culturally responsive and equitable evaluation.


Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity

LEEAD is a pipeline for ethno-racially diverse established researchers to become evaluators committed to culturally-responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE). To date, we have graduated 35 LEEAD Scholars. LEEAD Scholars represent fields such as sociology, public health, economics, psychology, and nursing. They have been recognized with honors including the American Public Health Association’s Leadership Award for Excellence; the National Center for Institutional Diversity’s Exemplary Diversity Scholar Award; and the American Sociological Association Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award.

LEEAD Final report

The LEEAD program includes:

> a semester of online-based evaluation coursework;

> ongoing mentorship from established experts in evaluation; and

> an evaluation practicum at a research organization, think tank, foundation, nonprofit, or private firm.

Since its inception, Change Matrix performed evaluations of the LEEAD program that involved a participatory, mixed-method approach in order to get a full understanding of the program’s implementation and outcomes.  Check out the LEEAD Evaluation Findings Brief:

Advancing Collaborative Evaluation Network

The ACE Network promotes the practice of excellent, equitable evaluation by supporting diverse evaluators from historically underrepresented racial and/or ethnic groups. Diversity elevates creative thinking by expanding a group’s capacity for viewing issues or problems with different perspectives and through multiple lenses. The ACE Network promotes the practice of excellent, equitable evaluation by including diverse evaluators throughout all phases of a project – planning, implementation, and performance – and by providing opportunities for all members of the Network to explore how equity shows up in our work. 

Connecting diverse evaluators to funders and each other through the Network expands the practice of CREE in the evaluation field.  ACE Network members represent a wide range of methodological backgrounds and possess the substantive skills required to serve as independent evaluators, leaders of or principal investigators at small evaluation firms or researchers in academia who are experienced evaluators. ACE Network members are available to pursue contracts to conduct evaluation work for foundations, think tanks, nonprofits, research institutes and other producers and consumers of evaluation who share a desire for a more diverse and inclusive sector.



Some of the things you can expect in this year as we work within our mission to provide a platform and support for diverse evaluators and consumers of evaluation to value, practice, and promote culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE):

> Call for applications for both LEEAD Cohort 3 and ACE Network membership coming soon

> Curricula revision for the 3rd LEEAD cohort to integrate CREE throughout the course work

> Expansion of and access to ACE Network members in more states, territories, and tribal nations

> Tailored communication strategies that include updates on programming, funding announcements, professional development, employment opportunities, etc.

> Community building and continued dialogue in the evolving field of CREE
A strong focus on diverse and engaged financial investors to build and sustain ETB



There are many opportunities to engage with ETB and join our journey to transform the field.  Depending on where you’re coming from, here are some ideas:

> Invest financially in ETB efforts if you’re able to contribute to sustaining this effort and moving the evaluation field to be more equitable and inclusive in people and in practice.

> Apply to become a LEEAD Scholar if you’re a researcher from an underrepresented background interested in furthering your culturally-responsive and equitable evaluation expertise (see other requirements)

> Apply to join the ACE Network if you’re an ethno-racially diverse evaluator with 3+ years of experience (see other requirements)

> Apply to become a LEEAD Mentor if you’re interested in contributing your experiences to support LEEAD Scholars

> Become a Host Site if you’re interested in bringing the depth of knowledge that comes with a trained LEEAD scholar to your organization/agency evaluation team

> Find a seasoned evaluator in the ACE Network if you’re looking for a diverse evaluator who brings a unique lens to the work

> Share with our team if you come across any opportunities that you think might be of interest including position openings, requests for proposals (RFPs), conferences, webinars, and more.

> Share with your peers the merits of ETB if you know someone who may be interested in joining this work!



Get ahold of us at team@expandingthebench.org!