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On the heels of last year's successful Quad-Cities Big Table, organizers of the community-wide discussions have made some changes for this year, including a new Student Big Table to hear from the leaders of tomorrow. 

The Q2030 Community Collaboration Workgroup and Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce will host a Student Big Table at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at John Deere World Headquarters, Moline.

Sixty high school students from 15 public and private schools will participate. Selected by their school administrators, the participating students were chosen for their leadership and are diverse in gender, ethnic background and grade level.

"We wanted a good mix of students from the urban core to as far as the outlying areas — from Rivermont Collegiate (Bettendorf) to Orion (Illinois)," said Jack Cullen, Q2030 Regional Action Plan project manager. "The goal is collecting as many different perspectives as possible."

Meanwhile, Q2030 is inviting community members to host and organize Quad-Cities Big Table conversations April 26-27. Last spring, the first Big Table event brought together more than 5,000 people over a 48-hour period at dozens of tables to discuss community issues and solutions.  

Grassroots community leaders can reunite their tables or organize new discussion circles. 

"We really want those engaged Quad-Citizens to come back together, and if they have an idea to tackle a certain issue, we're encouraging them to do that," Cullen said. "We really want them to make it their own." 

The Big Table groups also may contribute to the ongoing work of the Q2030 Workgroups or tackle new issues on their own. Q2030 Workgroups are addressing these areas: Interstate 74 Gateway Corridor; Welcoming & Inclusive; Talent Development; Mississippi River; Community Collaboration; Cultural Amenities; Neighborhoods; Regional Branding; Healthy People; and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

Unlike last year, no registration is required to participate in the Big Tables.

"Without registration, we also will not be collecting and processing feedback from every discussion," he said. 

More than 1,700 people were surveyed last year, providing feedback used to create a community report. Those findings are guiding the efforts of Q2030, including the all-volunteer workgroups, Cullen added.  

"Now we have the recipe and we've seen some successful outcomes," he said. At least two neighborhood-based groups emerged out of Big Table, North Scott Community Enhancement Project in Eldridge and Glen Oaks Neighborhood Association in Moline.

But Big Table groups still are being encouraged to keep Q2030 updated on progress — big or small — they make to improve the Quad-Cities, he said. Big Table groups can update Q2030 through social media (@IntheQ2030) or emailing q2030@quadcitieschamber.com.

"The future belongs to those who are willing to take action to improve our region," said Greg Aguilar, director of Q2030.  "Communities that share a common vision are those that will develop and win over the next generation of talent and businesses, and we believe the Quad-Cities is on this path."

Big Table organizers will find downloadable resources including discussion starters and meeting tips at Q2030's web site, Q2030.org/documents

Kelly Thompson, vice president of the Quad-Cities Community Foundation and co-champion of Q2030's Community Collaboration Workgroup, said the Big Table changes are "a great opportunity to put the success of Big Table in the hands of everyday people. The real connections and work happens at that level."

Q2030 and Community Foundation hope to help Big Table ideas advance by, when possible, linking them to other community partners or financial resources. Thompson said the foundation's Q2030 Grants are available for wide-ranging uses that improve the Quad-Cities.

The grants are available for up to $2,500 and are awarded on a monthly basis. For more information on Q2030 grants, visit qccommunityfoundation.org.  

"This is another way of encouraging people to get involved, not just talking about things, but doing them," Thompson said.

The Community Collaboration Workgroup sees the Student Big Table as a way to build stronger leadership skills in young adults, which was identified as a need in last year's Big Table survey.

The topics that this year's Student Big Table will discuss were ideas raised last year when Deere & Co. convened 300 students for its Big Table discussion. The student leaders will rally around these three causes: Safety, Security, Support 4 all Students; #reduce #reuse #recycle #CleanerQC; and Opportunities for Alternative Interests.

The group will represent these high schools: North Scott, Alleman, Assumption, Bettendorf, Davenport Central, Moline, Davenport North, Orion, Pleasant Valley, Mid City, Sherrard, Rivermont Collegiate, Rock Island, United Township and Davenport West. 

"We want to get them thinking about setting measurable goals and initiatives," Cullen said. "This is convening them and empowering them to take action. This is to inspire them."   

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