Nearly two months after thousands of people shared ideas on how to make the Quad-Cities a better place to live, organizers are calling the event a success.
The Quad-Cities Big Table, a two-day initiative held April 20 and 21, was inspired by the notion that some of the best ideas come from talking around the dinner table.
"We are really excited about our first year. We considered it a success," Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Rene Gellerman said.
Residents met in groups for discussions around tables at various public and private locations. Participants were asked to share ideas on how to improve and grow the region.
The initiative was organized by Q2030, a group whose goal is to transform the Quad-City region into a globally recognized location by 2030 through the growth of talent, jobs, and economic opportunities.
Gellerman said the event has fostered more relationships within the community.
"We estimate we had more than 5,000 people at 508 tables," Gellerman said. "We are really excited about the turnout. We are certainly seeing a lot of new relationships that have developed. People are talking about what they need to do next. We are seeing more collaboration between individuals and corporations."
Gellerman said a final report will be released in July listing topics of discussion, ideas, and concerns by participants.
"How do we take this information and direct our focus in ways that will encourage people to do more collaboration to inspire civic pride? We did hear a lot of pride in living here. How can we take those stories to fuel positive change in the region?"
After pouring through hundreds of Big Table surveys, Gellerman said hot topics included community development issues, how to leverage use of the Mississippi River, and a desire for more restaurants.
"And there were a lot of conversations about education and how critical it is to shaping our region."
Gellerman said the Chamber is still working on how to address concerns brought up by participants.
"We are working on a strategy on how we address those challenges," she said. "More importantly, how do we empower people to be change makers in our community.
"We learned things we can do in the coming years; to ensure we were inclusive and that people came to the table who didn't normally have the opportunity to share. We want to continue bringing people to the table to address challenges and help leverage the opportunities they have in their lives."
Organizers are planning to repeat the Big Table again next year on April 26 and 27.
In the meantime, the public is asked to share more information with the Chamber by answering a simple question: If you could make one change in the Quad-Cities, what would it be?
"What we're looking for right now are stories about the conversations that took place and stories that inspired people to take action," Gellerman said. "They can also use social media to post it and use the hashtag qcbigtable. We are following that.
"We've had hundreds of comments about the relationships coming about as a result of big table. There are many people in the Quad-Cities who are changing lives and communities that many people don't know about. It's provided a platform for them."