Community leaders joined the Greater Milwaukee Foundation on July 20 to launch “On the Table,” an effort to rally people and organizations across all sectors of the community to generate ideas and ignite action for the benefit of the region and its future.

On a single day this fall, people throughout the four-county region will gather in small groups to share a meal and engage in meaningful conversation about the individual and collective measures we can take to improve the quality of life in our community.

“I think everyone has their sphere of influence,” said Janan Najeeb, President of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. “We must help each other become ambassadors for each other, which means that this is going to cross gender, ethnicity, religion, race, and then we really begin to understand each other. So when we go back amongst the people that we know, we can say that’s not correct, this is what I know about a particular group or community. This is how I think we can work together.”

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has invited everyone in the region to be a civic leader on Tuesday, October 17 by hosting or joining a discussion as part of On the Table Greater Milwaukee, a unique opportunity to build relationships for the benefit of our community.

On the Table offers a welcoming, accessible way for any and all people in our community to contribute their ideas and energy toward advancing a more vibrant and connected region,” said Ellen Gilligan, President of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Strong relationships strengthen community, and this effort will build the types of relationships that lead to collaborative action and positive change.”

The initiative works by individual hosts inviting a small group of people to a mealtime conversation taking place any time on October 17 to discuss community issues that matter most to them. Anyone can register to host, and who they invite to their table of 8 to 12 is entirely up to them.

On the Table is a unique opportunity to have a seat at the table to shape our region’s future,” added Gilligan. “It’s a big idea based on a very simple concept. Your voice matters. Everyone has a voice in the future of our region. Now more than ever we want to build on our common interests and aspirations.”

While conversation starters will be available, each table has complete discretion over the topics they choose to discuss. These conversations – over breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between – can take place nearly anywhere, including homes, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, places of worship, places of business, community centers or parks. Hosts will determine the location and nature of the meal so that it works best for their small group. Participants will be encouraged to document their conversation, identify next steps and contribute feedback that may further community-wide goals.

“I think we all know that our region has what it takes to be vibrant, globally competitive 21st century region. And doing that means that we need to build upon our strengths. At the center of every success is relationships,” said Marcus White, Vice President of Civic Engagement for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “That’s at the heart of On the Table, at the heart of every successful effort is relationships that begin with a conversation. The foundation is launching On the Table as a unique approach to building relationships, generating ideas, and igniting action all for the benefit of our community.”

The Foundation will help share knowledge, ideas, and outcomes that surface through On the Table. In addition, social media users will be able to engage in the ongoing discussion by interacting with the #onthetableMKE hashtag. Powerful things happen when people come together.

“We need to continue to engage in those crucial conversations that sometimes involve difficult topics, because it is no secret that Milwaukee does struggle with certain issues,” said Griselda Aldrete, President of the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee. “But it’s important to build that trust, not only amongst ourselves but also to spread that message to a wider range of community with decision makers, leaders, and people in the community that are doing the work daily to transform the lives of many who make-up our neighborhoods.”

Registration is open for hosts, and a variety of resources are available. Organizations can also learn how they may serve as “super hosts” by committing to convene three or more tables. From neighborhoods to nonprofits, congregations to corporations, people throughout greater Milwaukee will gather for mealtime conversations about how to strengthen and advance region.

On the Table will harness the pride, the passion, and the commitment of our community,” Cecelia Gore, Executive Director of the Brewers Community Foundation. “That effort will make a difference, and it will be a starter for engaging in relationships that will prove to be meaningful and impactful.”

The Foundation is already collaborating with partner foundations in Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties – the Greater Cedarburg Foundation, the West Bend Community Foundation, and the Oconomowoc Area Foundation – to maximize the initiative’s reach.

On the Table is not the solution to our community’s challenge, but we believe that it can be the spark that leads to solutions,” added White.

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Lee Matz