Quad Cities Big Table: Quad Citizens invited to shape the future of the Quad Cities

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QUAD CITIES (KWQC) — People with different backgrounds from all around the Quad Cities are invited to come together for a common cause this spring. In offices, homes, libraries and other locations, thousands assemble in small groups on April 20 -21 to discuss how to collaboratively build and maintain a connected, inclusive and stronger community.

The Quad Cities Big Table is a community engagement initiative supported by the Q2030 Steering Committee and various businesses and non-profit organizations. Rene Gellerman, Q2030's Loaned Executive says the 48-hour initiative is designed to elevate civic conversations, foster new relationships and inspire collaborative action.

"We've learned a lot through our work on Q2030 about the good things already happening at a grassroots level in our region. The Quad Cities Big Table will bring Quad Citizens together in a connected, organic way to discuss what matters most to them – and the ways to individually or collectively make our communities stronger and better,"

"Its focus on local problem-solving and knowledge-building will boost efforts already underway and help more Quad Citizens affect positive change."

The goal of the Quad Cities Big Table is to create more dialogue and relationships by convening community-wide conversations. Organizers anticipate that 5,000 people of all ages, from all walks of life and from throughout the region, will participate in more than 500, one hour, small group conversations on either April 20 or 21 – with even more people connected to the conversations through social media using the #QCBigTable.

Tables will be organized and guided by table hosts who will receive training and a tool kit in advance of the community-wide event. The topics, issues and ideas discussed during each of the gatherings will be driven by the interests and perspectives of the participants, and the opportunities and challenges that are most important to them.

"Anyone can be a table host or participate," says Gellerman. "We've created resources to make it simple."

The location and time on April 20 or 21 is up to the participant's discretion. The hosts can fill their table by inviting friends and acquaintances or leave their public table open for other community members to join. There is no cost to participate. Signing up is easy on the QuadCitiesBigTable.com website.

The Quad Cities Big Table is modeled after Columbus Community Foundation's Big Table which seeks to accomplish much of the same thing.

"This is more than an 'event', it's a shift in thinking and the engaging of all of our communities in shaping the future of our region," said Kent Pilcher, Tri-Chair of Q2030 and President, Estes Construction.

Decker Ploehn, city administrator with the city of Bettendorf, says it is also about collaborating with one another and sharing different ideas on how to move forward.

"So this conversation is hopefully going to be bigger and broader than just your church, than just your neighborhood, than just your city and try to transcend any kind of boundaries, so that any idea about how we move forward as a region is a great, collaborative opportunity," he said.

Tracy White is the director of a non-profit called "Well Suited."

"For me personally, it's an opportunity to have a seat at the table. Our community is very diverse, but with less than 5 percent of our community made up of African Americans, we don't always have a voice, we're not always asked to sit at that table. So, this really being a community initiative, gives us the chance to have a voice and have a say in the changes happening here," she said.

Juanita Zertuche is the secretary at Moline's LULAC Council and says this is a collaboration of the community as a whole and is also a way to share ideas and projects with others in the community.

"And I think sometimes we don't take the opportunity to work together or to learn more about each other and I think this is the perfect opportunity for all of us to support each other," she said.

"While the Q2030 Steering Committee is proud to bring this initiative to our region, the Quad Big Table belongs to the people who participate. In a very real sense, the Quad Cities future is dependent on the individuals who make up our communities and organizations and their efforts that will make our region more inclusive, stronger and dynamic."

Following the Quad Cities Big Table weekend, the participants will receive a brief email survey. It will ask about people's experience with the project, the topics their group discussed and the extent to which this experience may impact their future level of civic engagement.

Q2030 and its partners will publicly share these outcomes, including trends, common themes and new collaborations developed to advance some of the ideas and solutions generated. Quad Cities' area residents will be able to view the results, learn more about issues affecting our region, and become more engaged and active in shaping our community's future.