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Local & State

Charlotte forums put social capital on the table
Goal is to cultivate community dialogue
Published Friday, September 29, 2017 2:01 pm
by Herbert L. White

Organizers of the inaugural On the Table CLT hope to bring 5,000 people together from across Mecklenburg County to talk about making the community better-connected and inclusive. The forums are designed as small intimate meeting scheduled for Oct. 25.

Put your ideas for a better community on the table.

Organizers of the inaugural On the Table CLT are looking to bring together 5,000 people on Oct. 25 to discuss how to build a better-connected and inclusive community through a series of small, intimate meetings. The initiative is a collaboration of the Community Building Initiative and Foundation For The Carolinas to generate ideas, solutions, and cultivate relationships and collaborations to strengthen Mecklenburg County.

The goal is to have people of diverse backgrounds participate in small groups and social media using #OnTheTableCLT.

“On the Table is a community engagement initiative that started by the Chicago Community Foundation Trust four years ago,” said Charles Thomas, Charlotte program director for the Knight Foundation. “The Knight Foundation feels this is a significant opportunity to engage communities in talking about topics that are significant to their city. There are so many topics and issues that need to be discussed and we feel this is a way to give every citizen an opportunity to be part of the conversation.”

Topics, issues and ideas for discussion will be relevant to Charlotte, but dialogue is up to the interests and perspectives of participants. Organizers, who will provide “host kits,” are looking for companies, organizations, groups and individuals to register as hosts at onthetableclt.org, and agree to host one or more gatherings of up to 10 people. The location, invitation list, and time of the gathering is up to the host, and there is no cost to participate, unless a host chooses to provide food and/or beverages for participants.

“That’s the goal – to get people to talk about that which is still bubbling on the surface right now,” Thomas said.

“It’s not going to be at the Convention Center, where everybody is at one place,” said Diane English, executive director of the Community Building Initiative. It’s meant to be small groups.

“Our goal is to have at least 500 of these conversations taking place on one day in every ZIP code we can imagine to connect with. We’re really seeing this as an action. This is not just talk. It is an action people can take, people who want to do something, people who want to connect with those who are either in their circle or not.”

“This effort complements the work of Leading on Opportunity,” said Brian Collier, Foundation For The Carolinas executive vice president, “and these organic discussions and genuine community engagement from diverse voices throughout the county will enhance our vision for the future of this region.”

At the forums’ conclusion, On The Table CLT will email a survey to participants to learn more about their experiences in the initiative and will publicly share the outcomes with the community.

“Our goal in this first year is to unite, engage and connect people in small groups on one day, centered around a common theme,” English said. “We know that big ideas can spring from small gatherings and that people invest in what they help create.”

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