This week, thousands of Chicago-area residents once again took part in mealtime conversations where they met others, shared ideas and explored ways to take action to improve our region as part of The Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table.
And while this year’s day of civic-minded conversation marked the fifth year of On the Table here in Chicago, it was my first time taking part in this unique forum that gathers residents in communities across the region in dialogue to listen and learn with and from each other.
From nonprofits on the west and northwest sides to Cook County headquarters in the Loop to an outdoor patio in Bronzeville and a high school in Washington Park, every conversation I attended was unique. I had the privilege of talking with high school students, grassroots community leaders, policymakers and people who simply care about their communities and want to see them thrive. I heard different voices around the table representing different communities discussing a wide range of issues—including how we can restore economic vitality to our neighborhoods, what adults can learn from millennials when it comes to civic engagement and activism, how we can strengthen our public schools and more.
I was most encouraged to hear participants talking not just about the deficits, but also about the assets of their community—with a focus on real solutions that can make our neighborhoods safer and create more opportunities for residents to reach their full potential.
I also heard that talking alone is not enough to strengthen our neighborhoods. The desire among individuals and organizations to do more was palpable at every table I joined. And was even more evident was the message that actions must be collective and collaborative. The Trust is committed to supporting groups in moving ideas that emerged from the table into tangible, concrete actions through the return of our Acting Up awards. Our goal is for On the Table to inspire and empower people and communities to work together to effect positive change at the local level in whatever way that makes sense to them.
So, let’s keep talking and doing. While On the Table convenes Chicagoans for a focused day of civic dialogue, we want these types of action-oriented conversations to continue throughout the year. We welcome you to share your stories of impact and explore new collaborations as we work together to benefit our neighbors and our region.