For one day, all across central Ohio, thousands of people had their voice heard as they spoke up about their community. Hundreds of conversations occurred as people came together to focus on their community and home.
The event was The Columbus Foundation’s second annual community discussion, The Big Table. The Big Table is part of the Foundation’s civic conversation project, giving members of the community an opportunity to come together and have a dialogue. The conversations were group-led, rather than directed by the foundation, with equal opportunities for participants to speak.
Although there were numerous hosts and thousands of people involved, the actual affair was much more low key, with smaller table-talks occurring locally. Throughout the day on Wednesday, May 17, various functions were held for one hour. The events typically hosted a minimum of eight people.
Participants were asked to focus on both the strengths and needs of the central Ohio community. The event was a also “lunch bag” and encouraged participants to enjoy their lunch while getting to know one another. Guests could bring their own lunch, with additional snacks and beverages provided by the hosts.
An hour-long talk might not seem like it can do much good, but the purpose of The Big Table not about finding immediate solutions to every issue facing the area. Rather the idea of the event is finding ways to help people get engaged in their community.
The Big Table first took place last year in August of 2016. The event was a success and has continued to grow, gathering more people and organizations to its cause. This year had the Foundation partnering for the first time with the Red Cross.
The Red Cross hosted its own luncheon at the Columbus chapter of the organization. The chapter’s Big Table had around 20 or so members, with Red Cross workers and citizens conversing together.
The participants were also encouraged to brainstorm ideas about what can be done to further strengthen the community. Contributors talked about what opportunities organizations and volunteers can provide for the community. Additionally, the discussed how these organizations can spread their messages through marketing, and ways that can help involve the more of the community.
By the end of the hour, people had been given the opportunity to express themselves. Red Cross staff, volunteers and citizens alike had exchanged ideas. They had talked about their concerns, but also their pride in their neighborhood.
Although this year’s event has finished, participants can continue to be involved. Participants can fill out and submit a survey about their experience. The survey was sent out by email and can be completed until May 28th. Additionally, participants are encouraged to share their experiences on their social media accounts with the hashtag #TheBigTable.
Those who missed out on the opportunity are in luck, as they can participate in next year’s event. Anyone can participate in or even host one of The Big Table discussions. You can also subscribe to The Big Table’s email on The Columbus Foundation’s website.