Across Charlotte on Wednesday, people will gather in groups of about 10 in coffee shops, libraries, break rooms and other locations to talk about building a more-connected and inclusive community. The 90-minute conversations are the result of a community engagement initiative called "On the Table CLT."
Charlotte's "On the Table" gatherings are part of a 10-city nationwide initiative, patterned after a program that began four years ago in Chicago. Organizers say big ideas for improving communities can spring from small gatherings.
Foundation for the Carolinas and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are financially backing the effort, which Charlotte's Community Building Initiative is coordinating. Executive Director Dianne English says the primary goal is to explore and improve connections.
"What connects you to this community, what are barriers to connection? If you've lived here all your life and you have had ways of finding meaningful connections, what are they? If you've come to this community relatively recently and you’ve hoped for connections, what are the barriers?
While organizers will provide questions to help prompt the discussions, English says the dialogue is intended to be driven by the perspectives and interests of those who attend. A post-dialogue survey and online resources will be available to help carry the conversations forward.
More than 40 organizations, companies, and community groups have signed on to help host Wednesday's discussions. Participants include faith groups, CMPD, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library. Organizers say you can still sign up to participate - or even host - an "On the Table" conversation. Details are available at onthetable.clt.org.