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Faith Bonilla of Bettendorf High School discusses ideas with Vanessa Fuentes of Rivermont Collegiate and other teammates during the Student Big Table event at John Deere Headquarters in Moline in February.

The Quad-Cities Big Table is back for a second year with a new format but a similar mission — engaging the community to find solutions to help transform the region.

Led by the Q2030 Regional Action Plan, a division of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the 2019 Big Table season will continue April 26-27. New this year, five Big Table conversations are planned over the two days that will focus on specific issues ranging from creating a prosperous economy to empowering youth.

Calling the new format "a more targeted approach," Q2030 Project Manager Jack Cullen said the new forums will be led by "community leaders who stepped up to address big topics that came out of last year’s Big Table and align with the pillars of Q2030."

But as in 2018 when Q2030 introduced the Quad-Cities Big Table concept, community members are invited to host their own Big Table discussions centered around issues of importance to them.

The forum facilitators include chamber officials, educators, housing advocates, tourism and business leaders, and a daughter-mother duo making a difference in their community.

The 90-minute discussions, all open to the public, are strategically being held at landmark venues in each of the five major metro cities and scheduled at different times to allow participants to attend multiple forums, Cullen said.

Each will begin with a brief update on the progress the Quad-Cities has made on the particular topic and an update on the Q2030 initiative. The forums' facilitators then will pose questions to spark discussions among the participants, who will be divided into tables of eight or 10 people.

"The leaders of these Big Tables want to have that engagement with everyday Quad-Citizens at their forums," Cullen said, adding the Big Table was created to build connections and relationships.

"Last year, we launched the tradition of Big Table as a new forum for identifying issues and creating solutions in the Quad-Cities," he said.

The inaugural event, held last April, drew 5,000 people around 508 tables, big and small, to explore ways to improve the region.

"Last year, the Quad-Cities Big Table helped build new relationships and inspire new collaborations that are changing the region," Kent Pilcher, Q2030 tri-chair and Estes Construction president, said in a news release. "Relationships progress into ideas, and I'm looking forward to seeing the innovative solutions that come forward this year."

Chamber President and CEO Paul Rumler will co-host the Prosperous Economy Big Table. In the release, he said creating a prosperous economy is not a job the chamber can do alone. "I'm looking forward to discussing what community members think will make a difference and hearing how they want to get involved to champion our region."

Cullen said the new format "still is designed as a community engagement tool to boost civic involvement and bring people together to come up with solutions that lead to change."

Q2030 kicked off the Big Table season in late February with the first Student Big Table, held at John Deere World Headquarters in Moline. About 60 high school students spent a half day developing goals and action plans for improving the Quad-Cities region.

Big Table participants are asked to register in advance for any of the five forums at bit.ly/QCBigTable19. Those interested in hosting their own Big Table should visit bit.ly/QCBigTable19Host. The website also offers resources on how to host a Big Table.

Groups launched by the Big Table are encouraged to share their efforts and outcomes with Q2030 at q2030@quadcitieschamber.com and on social media using #QCBigTable and tagging @IntheQ2030.

Cullen said the hope is the Big Table tradition continues to evolve as a tool for the community to use all year around. "Anytime there needs to be a big discussion in the Quad-Cities we want it to be a Big Table," he said.

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