On the Table

Get together—face-to-face—with other thinkers and doers to find common ground and common cause. Then, move your ideas from the table to places all around Chicago to make powerful things happen. Be engaged in a movement of thousands of Chicago-area residents who are building relationships and taking action to benefit our neighborhoods and the public good.

A group seated around a table in conversation.

Where Chicago Meets Up On a Single Day

The Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table was an annual forum designed to take people places—to offices, schools, libraries, restaurants, and other spaces—where they meet others, share ideas, and explore ways to improve our region. The results were exciting new relationships, elevated civic conversations, and genuine pathways toward collaborative action—outcomes that make our communities more connected, resilient, and resourceful. 

The success of On the Table in Chicago inspired similar initiatives in more than 20 communities nationally and internationally, including a cohort of 10 cities replicating the project as part of a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Tens of thousands of people have engaged with On the Table since it was launched in 2014.

Becoming a Host

Hosts unite people around an issue, topic, or common interest. Choose to be the person who gets good things started. Consider hosting your own On the Table. You’ll be among thousands of people who have lent their vision, imagination, and energy to shaping conversations with friends old and new—all around a meal and a topic. Hosting is the first step to doing something great in the city, and it’s made easy with guidance from our Conversation & Action Guide.

Your story matters.

No matter where in Chicago you are, you have lived experiences that shape your view of our city, its challenges, as well as its opportunities. Bring your stories to an On the Table conversation. Perhaps you’ve been a host or guest—or, maybe this year will mark your first participation. Either way, everyone is welcome. Everyone is an expert.

Share your ideas, listen to others, and then watch what happens. When people come together, their energy leads to action.

Where will your table take you?

The History of On the Table

Having important conversations that prompt a deeper commitment to our community has been part of The Chicago Community Trust since its founding in 1915—when Albert Harris and his father Norman, of the Harris Bank, brought together other civic leaders over mealtime conversations to talk about how they could make the city even better. They decided to pool their resources to maximize their charitable impact—and the Trust was born.

For more than a century, the Trust has convened civic leaders, nonprofits, and its donors to channel their resources to make our region stronger. This included a series of “Chicago Dinners” in the late 1990s and early 2000s in partnership with the Human Relations Commission. This series of small, informal mealtime conversations brought together area residents from different races and ethnicities to talk in a very personal, and often very challenging way about race relations.

On the eve of its 99th anniversary, the Trust continued this tradition, and organized the first ever On the Table to engage everyday residents in discussing ways we can continue to strengthen our community.







After the Table

On the Table is a proven and powerful civic engagement tool that has truly sparked a national movement. Since the Trust launched the initiative in 2014, more than 25 communities have replicated the project. This includes an ongoing commitment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as a number of cities who have launched the initiative with support and counsel from the Trust.

On the Table brought people together to meet and share information, then to do something with the great ideas that rose from those conversations. Participants have let their discussions lead them to action that is making a difference in their communities.

Our Work

We’ve made a 10-year commitment to closing Chicago’s racial and ethnic wealth gap while remaining steadfast in the core areas of work that are foundational to who we are.

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Partnerships & Initiatives

Through the years, the Trust has created many types of initiatives to help our region—and its foundations, businesses, civic leaders, and individuals—most effectively engage with the issues they care about.

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