When I first heard about the QC Big Table, I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity. The idea sounded so promising: two days of conversations throughout the Quad Cities to discuss community issues. You could sign up to host or attend a one-hour session, choosing either a public or private location. The initiative is part of the bigger Q2030 vision, a regional action plan that "aims to bring residents, practitioners, non-profit, academic, business and community leaders together to collaborate on making decisions and drive strategies that create cool places, creative people, a connected region and prosperous economy".
After registering to be a host location, I attended a host training session and became even more excited! So many people were embracing this idea and signing up to host discussions, but they were encouraging the hosts to get others involved. I recruited my sister, Tricia, to host one at her new business, Polished Hair Lounge. That gave me two opportunities to participate (although I certainly would have attended other sessions, time permitting)!
I had my packet of Big Table-branded materials and was ready to host on Friday, April 20th at 3:30pm. Eight people signed up in advance for our table, but there were a couple of cancellations early in the day. We ended up with six, in addition to our family (my parents, Billy and Mary, and my husband, Jordan). After getting everyone registered and providing a round of drinks for the group, I started the conversation with a simple, open-ended starter question: "What can we do together to create a stronger community?". The discussion immediately focused around at-risk youth and the available services for them. We talked about how we all can reach out to the youth of the area and give them any guidance needed to be successful, contributing members of the community, including ways to promote youth mentorship. We talked about a few other topics, but it kept coming back to this concern.
The following day, I was set to attend the session at Polished Hair Lounge at 5:30pm. It was a smaller group with just my two sisters and three stylists from the salon. We had a much different conversation, focusing on community amenities and events, local businesses, and collaboration. With three different locally-owned businesses represented, including Sarah's shop What A Gem, we chatted about ideas to work together, and with other small business owners, to build on the idea of 'community over competition'.
Overall, I had a positive experience throughout the QC Big Table weekend. It was definitely a topic of conversation leading up to and after the actual weekend of one-hour sessions. From what I've heard, they reached the goal of 5,000 participants! I completed the survey that they sent out, both from the host perspective and as a guest, and hope that they use the feedback that everyone submits to see what community issues are important to the broader population. If nothing else, I think it brought more attention and engagement to the Q2030 regional action plan initiative!