Many Voices Were Heard.

On May 12, 2014, in every Chicago neighborhood and many suburban communities, thousands of residents came together to break bread and discuss how to collaboratively build and maintain strong, safe and dynamic communities. This imaginative public square, an initiative The Chicago Community Trust called On the Table, was designed to commemorate the Trust’s 99th anniversary and to generate new ideas, inspire bold solutions and cultivate relationships and collaborations to improve communities region-wide.

The Trust invited the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) to partner and assess the impact of On the Table. The report details who participated, key discussion themes and outcomes and impacts on future civic engagement. In addition to the highlighted data below, you can download the full report by clicking “THE FULL REPORT” tab above or the link at the end of this page.

The Voices

On The Table 2014 was Expansive & Accessible.

Participants from throughout the region and from all walks of life came together in private residences, backyards, at local restaurants, schools, community centers, places of worship, libraries, offices and retail establishments.


estimated participants.


mealtime conversations.


area counties, including Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will County participated.


different cities, villages and towns across the region had participants.

Every residential zip code in the City of Chicago participated


Age Breakdown
  • 25 to 34 (22.3%)

  • 35 to 44 (23.4%)

  • 45 to 54 (22.8%)

  • 55 to 64 (18.1%)

  • 65 and over (10.5%)

Gender Breakdown
  • Female (65.1%)

  • Male (33.7%)

  • Transgender/Other (1.2%)

Typical Conversation included 10 people

“People still have that overwhelming sense of civic pride and love for this city, and they really enjoy the opportunity to be in the conversation.”

The Passion

On The Table 2014 was engaging, revealed commonalities & went viral.

Participants were motivated to share their ideas and engage in robust discussions of issues.

Main Themes


School systems, Curriculum reform, Mentoring, Summer and After-school programs

Community Engagement

Civic responsibility, Community dialogues and conversation, Community organizing and leadership, Neighbor relations and gatherings

Equity & Social Inclusion

Youth access/engagement, Promoting diversity, Senior access/engagement, Discrimination, Segregation, Women’s issues


Partnerships/working together, Sharing resources, Cross sector partnerships, Unifying the Chicago region


71 Percent

of respondents indicated positive tone of conversation


Over 80 Percent

of respondents shared an idea or raised an issue of concern


55 Percent

of respondents discussed education


75 Percent

of respondents participated because they want to work with others to improve their community

News & Social Media

Social media was an integral component, connecting thousands virtually to the mealtime discussions and making #OnTheTable2014 a top local trending topic on May 12, 2014.


digital impressions generated


#OnTheTable2014 mentions over the course of the initiative

“It reaffirmed that people are passionate about their communities. And it didn’t matter if it was a single mom… a CEO of a billion dollar company… a government worker… an attorney, a doctor or a candlestick maker. They were passionate. They want to be involved.”

The Impact

On The Table 2014 improved understanding of issues & created connections.

Conversations brought people together to educate one another, share ideas and make connections with contacts old and new for future collaboration.

67%67% of participants indicated an improved understanding of regional issues
95%95% of participants believe they have an influence in achieving change in their community
80%80% of participants indicated an improved understanding of specific community and city issues
75%75% of participants felt conversations generated an actionable vision at the local level

of participants made connections with new people


of participants exchanged contact info with other attendees for future collaboration

“What was heartening for me was that there was a desire for everyone to connect… the desire to connect resonated across all groups, all subject matters. And I thought that was extraordinary.”

What Does It All Mean?

On the Table 2014 Showed that the “Can Do” Spirit is Alive and Well.

Even in today’s virtual world, people still crave human interaction and the power to get things done by working together. Now, residents of the Chicago region must work together with the Trust, with other institutions at all levels and with one another to continue these conversations, harness the ideas that emerge and direct their collective efforts to address the challenges of the day and work to make a more just and equitable region for all residents.

“I was just really inspired across the board. And I hope the Trust does something again similar in nature to this, and if they don’t, I hope the people that participated in all of the conversations splinter off and continue to keep their own discussions going.”

What’s Next?

Building on the great enthusiasm and strong participation cultivated through On the Table, The Chicago Community Trust announced a new project in September to steward six promising ideas into action by convening six “collaboratories” or working groups of On The Table participants who shared complementary ideas.

the six collaboratory finalists are:
  1. 1. asset mapping

    Developing of a digital platform to connect community needs to resources available across Chicagoland by mapping nonprofit and governmental services.

  2. 2. the GenG project

    The Generation Green Project connects youth to opportunities within the growing fields of sustainability and the green industry.

  3. 3. opportunity hubs

    Opportunity Hubs will seek to revitalize vacant properties to create innovation hubs in underserved communities promoting community change, self-determined by local communities.

  4. 4. Parent engagement roadmap

    Empowering parents to navigate and improve their neighborhood school system.

  5. 5. sister neighborhoods

    Organizing and facilitating the exchange of cultural awareness and barrier breaking activities across communities in the city and suburbs.

  6. 6. where is your bench?

    Creating a campaign to encourage people to identify, establish and leverage safe spaces on their own blocks where people can gather (or already do) and get to know each other on a regular basis.

Through the Trust’s partnership with Chicago Ideas Week, these six ideas aimed to advance the quality of life in our communities will be refined during lab sessions led by Chicago-based innovation firms Doblin, Gravity Tank, Greater Good Studio and IDEO. After Chicago Ideas Week, over the course of the fall and winter, the Trust will continue to support the six collaboratory working groups in their efforts to develop a sustainable plan and began to put their ideas into action.

In April 2015, each team will have the opportunity to pitch their proposals to a panel of potential investors and influencers in the hopes of securing support for the implementation of their ideas moving forward.

A special thank you to our sponsors for their generous support of on the table