You know those corporate retreats, where people from different departments in a company get together for breakout events, brainstorming sessions, and a lot of eating and drinking? Imagine something like that, but for an entire city.
On the Table, a one-day civic blitz throughout a city, uses meal sharing as a way to cook up civic dialogue. Huddled around tables in restaurants, churches, offices, museums and libraries across the city, thousands of people talk, in many cases to people they don’t even know, about the issues that matter most to them.
The first On the Table event was started in Chicago in 2014, and has returned every May since; the event’s sponsor, the Knight Foundation, has now spread the franchise to 30 communities nationwide.
“On the Table is a pretty simple idea: It’s how do we get people to break bread together and then have solutions-oriented conversation about the community that they live in,” said Lilly Weinberg, the foundation’s program director of community and national initiatives. The program is part of a wave of similarly conceived philanthropic efforts aimed at busting Americans out of their ideological bubbles and salving the nation’s fractious political culture.
“At a time when our country is incredibly divided, there’s really been a hunger for in-person, face-to-face conversations,” Weinberg said. “What we’ve found is that, at a hyperlocal level, what really matters is figuring out how to solve the challenges around us.”