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Quad-Cities, let’s talk. Let’s talk about what would make this area a better place for everyone.

That is the goal of a community-wide initiative called the Quad-Cities Big Table that will unfold on April 20 and 21 when some 5,000 people representing different ages and backgrounds will be invited to participate in 500, one-hour, small group conversations.

The tables will be organized and guided by hosts who will receive training to guide the discussions, but the topics, issues and ideas will be driven by the interests and perspectives of the participants. The tables might be in homes, schools, restaurants, places of worship, libraries or offices or anywhere a host wants to meet, any time of the day.

And anyone who wants to be a host or participant or both may do so by signing up online at quadcitiesbigtable.com.

Quad-Cities Big Table is an initiative of the QC2030 Regional Action Plan, a shared vision endorsed by more than 240 business, nonprofit, academic, business and community leaders to make the Quad-Cities a cool, creative, connected and prosperous place. It is modeled after a similar program originating in Columbus, Ohio.

The conversations are intended to draw out what matters most to various participants and “ways to individually or collectively make our communities stronger and better,” Rene Gellerman, Q2030’s loaned executive, said in a news release.

For Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn, who hopes to be both a host and a participant, the “prosperous” pillar of the four QC2030 components is most important. “How do you get everyone to prosper?” he said. There is a feeling, and possibly a reality, that the Iowa side of the Mississippi River is prospering more than Illinois, he said. “How do we make that more equitable?” he said. He’s looking for ideas that would that would foster greater equity.

And although Ploehn knows hundreds of people, he is hoping to invite people he doesn’t know, getting names of people who sign up through the website.

Juan Valtierra, a hip hop dancer and rapper originally from East Moline, wants to invite to his table people ages 18 to possibly 30 to talk about things already going on, such as anti-bullying efforts, and how they might get involved.

He also wants to promote positive outlets for young people through the arts. He’s certain there are teens in the community with great ideas who don’t get an opportunity to share them.

Conversations are expected to last around one hour and can be held at any time of day.

“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,” Kent Pilcher, tri-chair of Q2030 and president of Estes Construction, said in a news release.

“While the Q2030 Steering Committee is proud to bring this initiative to our region, the Big Table belongs to the people who participate,” he said. “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 conversations, participants will receive a brief email survey. It will ask about people’s experience, the topics their group discussed and the extent to which they might be willing to work on solutions.

Q2030 will share these outcomes, including trends, common themes and new collaborations developed to advance some of the ideas and solutions generated.

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