The Chicago Community Trust’s signature civic engagement initiative, which brings residents together in small mealtime conversations to talk about ways to make their neighborhoods stronger, safer and more dynamic, will expand nationally with $1.15 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This expanded, national On the Table initiative will involve community foundations in 10 cities where Knight invests—Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; Detroit; Gary, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; Long Beach, California; Miami; Philadelphia; and San Jose, California.

Each city will schedule one day on which they will convene thousands of residents to share both a meal and ideas on how to make their city a better place to live and work, while tackling pressing community challenges and fostering opportunities for addressing those challenges— such as race relations, affordable housing, urban design and public space improvements. Data and insights from On the Table aim to help inform strategic planning by participating community foundations. Data may also be shared with local decision-makers, organizations and residents to encourage them to collaborate on actions that can improve the quality of life in their city.

This initiative builds on the success of The Chicago Community Trust’s annual On the Table initiative, which launched in 2013. In 2016, more than 55,000 Chicago area residents participated by eating meals together, discussing pressing community issues and brainstorming ideas for addressing those issues. The Trust used data from On the Table to inform the development of its comprehensive strategic plan and to elevate community voices among policymakers and through mainstream and social media. In spring 2016, Knight Foundation supported an On the Table symposium in Chicago, where more than 60 individuals from 40 cities, 25 states and Canada learned about the Trust’s initiative.

“The expansion of On the Table will help create a national network of people who are working to make our communities stronger and more successful, while sharing lessons about how local residents can collaborate on pressing challenges,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight Foundation director for community foundations. “With community foundations leading the effort, the information gathered through this initiative will tap into residents’ interests and aspirations, informing decisions about new investments and engaging local decision-makers.”

“This act of coming together has never been more important, and we are thrilled by Knight Foundation’s investment to support the expansion of On the Table conversations in 10 communities across the country,” said Cheryl Hughes, senior director of civic engagement at The Chicago Community Trust. “When we come together as a community with a shared commitment to listen, we learn from and with each other. That’s what this initiative is all about.”

On the Table will return to Chicago on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Scheduled dates for Knight Foundation’s national On the Table events include:  • Lexington, Kentucky: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • Long Beach, California: Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 • Gary, Indiana: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 • Akron, Ohio: Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 • Miami: TBD, fall 2017 • San Jose, California: TBD, October 2017 • Columbus, Georgia: Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 • Philadelphia: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 • Detroit: TBD, summer/fall 2017 • Charlotte, North Carolina: TBD, fall 2017

Support for On the Table forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.


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