The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced $2 million in new funding to renew a national initiative that brings residents of cities together over a meal to talk about ways to address pressing issues in their respective communities.
In 2017, On the Table, a Knight program that replicates an annual civic engagement initiative of the same name developed by the Chicago Community Trust in 2013, brought forty thousand residents of ten cities together in mealtime conversations led by community foundation officials. According to the foundation, the conversations sparked a variety of community collaborations, informed various city planning efforts, and facilitated the process of turning ideas into action.
In 2018, the initiative will involve community foundations in ten cities where Knight invests: the Akron Community Foundation (Ohio); the Foundation for the Carolinas (Charlotte, North Carolina); the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley (Columbus, Georgia); the Legacy Foundation (Gary, Indiana); the Blue Grass Community Foundation (Lexington, Kentucky); the Community Foundation of Central Georgia (Macon); the Miami Foundation (Florida); the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties (Palm Beach, Florida); the Philadelphia Foundation; and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (San Jose, California). Each city will schedule a day when thousands of residents are invited to share both a meal and their ideas on how to make the community a better place to live and work while identifying opportunities to address local challenges such as affordable housing, climate change, race relations, and urban design and public space improvements. Data and insights from the conversations will then be used to inform strategic planning and grantmaking by the local community foundation and city government.
"On the Table is a surging effort to reinvent public dialogue. In its first year, the national effort brought together thousands of people to meet and discuss difficult and sometimes contentious issues face-to-face," said Knight director for community foundations Lilly Weinberg. "Participants worked to build connections and consensus, identify solutions to local challenges, and use these results to influence decision-makers. In its next phase, we hope to see these conversations translate to deeper local action."