On the Table initiative to expand nationally, spur community problem-solving over mealtime conversations with $1.15 million from Knight Foundation

Press Release

February 6, 2017

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MIAMI—Feb. 6, 2017—The Chicago Community Trust’s signature civic engagement initiative, which brings residents together in small mealtime conversations to talk about ways to make their neighborhoods stronger, safer and more dynamic, will expand nationally with $1.15 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This expanded, national On the Table initiative will involve community foundations in 10 cities where Knight invests—Akron Community Foundation (Akron, Ohio); Foundation for the Carolinas (Charlotte, North Carolina); Chattahoochee Valley Community Foundation (Columbus, Georgia); Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (Detroit); Legacy Foundation (Gary, Indiana); Blue Grass Community Foundation (Lexington, Kentucky); Long Beach Community Foundation (Long Beach, California); The Miami Foundation (Miami); Philadelphia Foundation (Philadelphia); and Silicon Valley Community Foundation (San Jose, California).

Each city will schedule one day on which they will convene thousands of residents to share both a meal and ideas on how to make their city a better place to live and work, while tackling pressing community challenges and fostering opportunities for addressing those challenges— such as race relations, affordable housing, urban design and public space improvements. Data and insights from On the Table aim to help inform strategic planning by participating community foundations. Data may also be shared with local decision-makers, organizations and residents to encourage them to collaborate on actions that can improve the quality of life in their city.

This initiative builds on the success of The Chicago Community Trust’s annual On the Table initiative, which launched in 2013. In 2016, more than 55,000 Chicago area residents participated by eating meals together, discussing pressing community issues and brainstorming ideas for addressing those issues. The Trust used data from On the Table to inform the development of its comprehensive strategic plan and to elevate community voices among policymakers and through mainstream and social media. In spring 2016, Knight Foundation supported an On the Table symposium in Chicago, where more than 60 individuals from 40 cities, 25 states and Canada learned about the Trust’s initiative.

“The expansion of On the Table will help create a national network of people who are working to make our communities stronger and more successful, while sharing lessons about how local residents can collaborate on pressing challenges,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight Foundation director for community foundations. “With community foundations leading the effort, the information gathered through this initiative will tap into residents’ interests and aspirations, informing decisions about new investments and engaging local decision-makers.”

“This act of coming together has never been more important, and we are thrilled by Knight Foundation’s investment to support the expansion of On the Table conversations in 10 communities across the country,” said Cheryl Hughes, senior director of civic engagement at The Chicago Community Trust. “When we come together as a community with a shared commitment to listen, we learn from and with each other. That’s what this initiative is all about.”

On the Table will return to Chicago on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.


Scheduled dates for Knight Foundation’s national On the Table events include:

  • Lexington, Kentucky: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
  • Philadelphia: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
  • Long Beach, California: Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017
  • Gary, Indiana: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017
  • Akron, Ohio: Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017
  • Detroit: Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017
  • Miami: Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
  • Charlotte, North Carolina: Wednesday Oct. 25, 2017
  • Columbus, Georgia: Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017
  • San Jose/Silicon Valley, California: Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017

Support for On the Table forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.