Although 2017 was the second year for The Big Table, the Columbus Foundation’s community conversation event, I hadn’t heard much about it until I was personally invited to attend last week. Now, after having experienced The Big Table firsthand, I’m pleased to share my take on the event and encourage you to get involved next year.

The Big Table is a community-wide event across Columbus where small groups of 10-12 people gather together around a table over a snack or meal to talk about what’s great in our community, what needs our community has and how we can look at the intersection of these two areas to find actionable ideas for an even stronger, more connected community.

I was invited to attend The Big Table event hosted by Columbia Gas. I joined a group of other professional women, some of whom are working moms and all of whom are passionate about our community. The conversation flowed naturally from a few starter questions provided by the Columbus Foundation. We quickly sifted through our lists of Columbus treasures and community needs, and began to dig deeper into the root cause of many perceived problems in our town: poverty and a lack of education or resources.

We agreed that in many cases, resources may exist, but the people who need them most may not know about them or have access to them. We talked about our own biases and privilege. We spoke about the need to provide better parenting education and support, and to better promote existing resources in the community. We even brainstormed possible solutions on how suburban moms, like ourselves, could provide needed support, mentoring and help to young or disadvantaged moms who are currently underserved by many of the available resources. We each left with a strong desire to look for ways to give back and contribute to the community. It was an energizing and inspiring afternoon.

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Why Sit at The Big Table?

Kelley Griesmer from the Columbus Foundation blogged for Columbus CEO about why businesses should support their leaders’ involvement with The Big Table, and I agree completely with her reasoning. Team building, career development and networking are all great reasons to get involved with this event—communication and problem-solving with peers and strangers are great skills to encourage in employees.

As an agency professional, there’s another reason to be involved with The Big Table. I love the concept of conversation around a shared topic and the exercise of stepping away from life’s daily roles and responsibilities to “think big” (something we’re always tasked with on behalf of our clients). In fact, sitting around The Big Table reminded me of our FH BrandCamp workshop, where we gather clients to brainstorm and focus conversation specifically around aspects of brand or identity.

Any company can benefit from creating a meeting or event themed like The Big Table. Bringing people together in person, without phones or distractions, and with a shared purpose – and good snacks – is almost always a recipe for good ideas. Think of the possible topics: how to improve internal communications? How to break down silos and connect departments? How to provide an even better customer experience?

We’d love to help your organization set the stage for inspiring, idea-generating conversations like The Big Table did for Columbus.