This imaginative public square, an initiative The Chicago Community Trust is calling On the Table, is designed to generate new ideas, inspire bold solutions, and cultivate relationships and collaborations to improve communities region-wide. The goal is to have more than 10,000 people of all ages, from all walks of life and socio-economic circumstances, participate in 1,000 substantive mealtime conversations on May 12 to commemorate The Chicago Community Trust's 99th anniversary. Thousands more will be connected to the conversations through social media using the #OnTheTable2014 hashtag.
The topics, issues and ideas discussed during each of the On the Table conversations will be completely organic and driven by the interests and perspectives of the participants and the opportunities and challenges in their community that are most important to them. To date, more than 250 hosts have signed on to participate, including corporate CEOs, elected officials, community organizations and non-profits, news media organizations, schools and faith communities from across Chicago and throughout the Collar Counties.
The project harkens back to The Chicago Community Trust's founding nearly a century ago, when Chicago banker Albert Harris hosted a similar mealtime conversation during which people who cared about the region combined their philanthropy to maximize their charitable impact. Since its founding, the Trust has awarded approximately $1.8 billion in grant funding to more than 11,000 local nonprofit organizations – that includes more than $170 million in 2013.
"On the Table is a unique and compelling way for the Trust to invite Chicago-area residents to come together for meaningful and inclusive discussions about the collective future of our communities," said Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. "These conversations will provide a forum to explore what it means to be part of a community in the 21st century and inform our work to improve the quality of life and prosperity of our region and its residents."
At the conclusion of the events on May 12, The Chicago Community Trust will send every participant a simple email survey, compiled by the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, to learn more about their participation in this project, the interesting ideas they discussed and how this experience may impact their civic engagement moving forward. The Trust will publicly share these outcomes, including trends, common themes and new collaborations developed to advance some of the ideas and solutions generated.
On the Table is made possible through the financial support of corporate sponsors, including Allstate Insurance Company, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bank of America, Comcast NBCUniversal, ComEd, Holland Capital Management LLC and PNC Bank. The project Steering Committee is being cochaired by Leslie Bluhm, founder of Chicago Cares, and Carole Brown, managing director at Barclays, who are both also members of the Trust's governing board.
For more information or to sign up to participate as a host or a guest, Chicago-area residents can visit www.onthetable2014.com or call 866-737-6951.