On Wednesday, March 15, 11,000 residents from across Lexington, Kentucky gathered for mealtime conversations to talk about the issues, big and small, that impact quality of life in their community. From a breakfast with 100 young professionals discussing the future of Lexington to a lunchtime discussion of middle school students brainstorming ways to make Lexington a better place, from colleagues taking a break from their workday to consider the needs of their community to older adults gathering at the city’s biggest horse racing track to talk about ways to make a difference—this was On the Table Lexington, Kentucky-style!
The Blue Grass Community Foundation was the first of 10 community foundations across the U.S. to replicate the On the Table initiative this year with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and support from the team at Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications.
On the Table was first launched locally in 2014 by The Chicago Community Trust. It is now the Trust’s signature public engagement initiative, designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and inspire collaborative action. In 2016, more than 55,000 Chicago area residents came together to discuss pressing community issues and brainstormed ideas for addressing those issues.
This expanded, national On the Table initiative will involve community foundations in 10 cities where Knight invests – Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; Detroit; Gary, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; Long Beach, California; Miami; Philadelphia; and the Silicon Valley region in California.
“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.”
These conversations kicked off in Lexington, with other cities hosting their On the Table throughout the spring and fall.
In Lexington, the Blue Grass Community Foundation used On the Table to mark its 50th anniversary, as well as significantly increase community voice for the region’s mandated updates to its Comprehensive Plan.
“The timing of On the Table is so great because right now Lexington is in the midst of its comprehensive planning process, which takes place every five years” said Lisa Adkins, president of the Blue Grass Community Foundation. “We’ve partnered with the city, its Division of Planning, and Leadership Lexington on this On the Table event. Survey results from On The Table will significantly increase the presence of community voice in the city’s guiding document for planning and quality of life. In addition, the insights will help the Foundation better define our work in the area of community leadership and engagement. It is our hope that participation in On the Table will also inspire a continued and increased commitment to civic dialogue and engagement in Lexington.”
This project is one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement. The Knight Foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.
Click here for continued updates on the initiative.
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