05 Feb 2020 Reporting In from the Table
Today Southwest Floridans gathered around tables in their homes, office break rooms, restaurants, parks and coffee shops to share a meal and time together. People love to eat and connect, but it happens so often and mindlessly we tend to take it for granted.
But one day, last October, the conversations around over 150 tables in our region took on more intentional conversations. Neighbors, friends, and coworkers took time out to talk about their community for the region’s inaugural On the Table® Southwest Florida event. On the Table focused on facilitating organic, informal community conversations to learn from table mates and to inspire action across communities.
Throughout the day, conversations covered hundreds of topics. Hosts could focus on topics suggested by their guests or use guided conversation prompts centered on community strengths, needs and actions. Following the conversations, participants were asked to take a survey that provided a deeper understanding of the community issues they deemed most important.
The day of table talks provided a unique region-wide opportunity to connect and hear from each other. At each conversation, ideas were shared, people formed connections and guests had a voice.
I dropped into a dozen of these tables to thank the hosts and their invited participants and to listen in on what was on the hearts and minds of my neighbors. I wish II could have made it to every conversation. Nothing informs community change making more than the input and engagement of those that live here.
Even though I wasn’t able to eavesdrop on everyone, I knew the surveys would offer up insights and we promised all involved to share the results with the entire community.
Of the estimated 1,000 people who participated in On the Table, 320 completed the survey. More than 80 percent (83%) of the participants reported being involved in community and neighborhood activities and they believe residents like themselves can make a significant impact in improving their community.
The survey respondents also had positive feelings and perceptions about the community and approach the issues and challenges facing the community with a strong sense of hope for the future – 72% are more hopeful about what the future holds for their community, compared with only 28% who are more worried. A significant number of respondents say the community is more united than divided, and an even larger proportion believe the area where they live has a strong sense of community. Despite the overwhelming positive tone, the survey reveals some areas of opportunity for the community, and we can’t overlook the fact that we didn’t receive feedback from all the zip codes in our region.
If you are like me and want to hear all the scoop, the full survey results are available at floridacommunity.com/ottresults2019. And if you would like to set a table of your own, don’t worry we plan to do it again next fall.
About On the Table
On the Table Southwest Florida replicates an annual civic engagement initiative “On the Table®” developed by The Chicago Community Trust in 2014. Since then, the initiative has fostered civic engagement and generated hundreds of actionable ideas from tens of thousands of Chicago-area residents and has also been replicated nationally in more than 30 communities across the nation.
Support for On the Table, powered by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, advances work to help the region attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity, and create a culture of civic engagement. Visit www.floridacommunity.com/OTT