Chicagoans actually care about each other: according to UIC report on spring’s On the Table event

SHARE Chicagoans actually care about each other: according to UIC report on spring’s On the Table event

Remember back to May 12, when everyone was talking about “On the Table,” an event designed to bring strangers together to break bread and in so doing, start to solve Chicago’s problems?

Well, those 11,000 conversations spread out across seven counties and including some 17 million digital mentions didn’t go to waste. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement on Tuesday released a study that shared some insight about the Chicago Community Trust’s “On the Table” event.

One: People liked it.

Two: People from every ZIP code in Chicago participated, making it one of those rare community talks that involves the community.

Three: Six ideas will be explored in greater detail for 2015. (For more on those particular ideas, scroll all the way to the end of this post.)

Four: It was diverse. In race, religion, ethnicity, gender identification, age and region.

Five: The overarching themes of importance centered upon education and inclusion. There also were conversations about social justice and eliminating racist policies and attitudes in the city.

“If we are to succeed and to continue being a vibrant and dynamic city we must care about each other as much as we care about ourselves and we must care about our fellow resident’s neighborhoods as much as we care about our own,” said Cheryl Hughes, the senior director of strategic initiatives for The Chicago Community Trust. “We need to address the segregation in our community. Equality and social inclusion is critical to our success and we can’t do any of that unless we collaborate. It was surprising the number of times that came up.”

So it’s true. People want to turn off their phones and foster community. Many of them want block parties and stumps to sit upon and more neighborhood activities that are open to neighbors from nearby communities. Here’s a tidbit directly from the report:

A smaller but still sizeable portion of respondents focused on community engagement specifically within and among neighborhoods. Some talked about community organizing and leadership at the grassroots level, particularly through the forma- tion of block clubs, as a necessary precursor to local change . Similarly, some noted the importance of generating opportunities for more informal gatherings with neighbors—such as block parties, festivals, dinners, and conversations—as a way of cultivating community and building stronger ties . Others, however, considered ways to build a more cohesive sense of community within the greater Chicago area by collaborating at the neighborhood level and bridging connections among communities regionwide.

UIC’s Joseph Hoereth described the effort as “innovative.”

“It’s really groundbreaking,” says Hoereth, the director of UIC’s Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement. “There’s a lot to takeaway, [but one idea] is that it gave people the opportunity to engage with one another around their own ideas and their own sense of what could make a better city. There was a hunger for that.”Related

Supping with strangers to solve a problem? Sign me up

Here’s a bit more on diversity from the report:

• Registrants by gender were 65 .1% female, 33 .7% male, and 1 .2% who identified as transgender, androgynous, trans-queer, or other.

• The median age of all registrants was 45 .0 years old. The age distribution of registrants in the seven-county region is as follows: 3 .0% were ages 18–24; 22 .3% ages 25–34; 23 .4% ages 35–44; 22 .8% ages 45–54; 18 .1% ages 55–64; 10 .5% ages 65 and above.

• Registrants in the seven-county region by race/ ethnicity were whites, 57 .4%; African Americans, 22 .9%; Latinos, 9 .5%; and Asians, 2 .9%.

• About three-quarters (72 .2%) of registrants were Chicago residents, while 2 .8% were from communities outside of Chicago. At the county level, the breakdown of registrants is as follows: Cook County (87 .7%), Lake (3 .6%), DuPage (2 .7%), Will (2 .2%), McHenry (1 .8%), and Kane ( .8%).

Evanston, Oak Park, Waukegan and Highland Park had the most participation of any suburbs.

One of the larger ideas that resonated with On the Table was that of the need for diversity and to break barriers all over Chicagoland.

One dinner was overwhelmingly about the need for people to see the so-called inner city as a place where people live and love, and not as a war zone.

Another On the Table dinner discussed the need to bring quality arts and theater to every part of the city and not just clustered downtown and north. Still another On the Table dinner brought up the need to honestly talk about schools and why charter schools got so popular so suddenly while traditional schools were put on the outs.

One graph in the report was particularly interesting because it shows that the conversations were more clustered in the Loop and downtown than on the South Side. That indicates a need to get more involvement south of Madison or, more likely, it means that lots of people participated while they were leaving work so they stayed in the Loop for an On the Table event.

The conversation continues with Chicago Ideas Week, where “Six collaboratories featuring ideas generated during On the Table are planned for October 2014. Through a partnership with Chicago Ideas Week and with the continued support of the Trust, the working groups will refine the ideas into sustainable plans, which they will then pitch to a panel of investors and influencers in April 2015 in hopes of securing financial support for implementation.”

The next On The Table dinner is scheduled for May 12. Oh, and if you really want the extreme details, feel free to read the report yourself here.

Looking for the six ideas that will be explored in greater detail? Here they are:

Asset Mapping: Developing of a digital platform to connect community needs to resources available across Chicagoland by mapping nonprofit and government services.

  • The GenG Project: The Generation Green Project connects youth to opportunities within the growing fields of sustainability and the green industry.

  • Opportunity Hubs: Opportunity Hubs will seek to revitalize vacant properties to create innovation hubs in underserved communities promoting community change, self-determined by local communities.

  • Parent Engagement Roadmap: Empowering parents to navigate and improve their local neighborhood school system.

  • Sister Neighborhoods: Organizing and facilitating theexchange of cultural awareness and barrier breaking activities across communities in the city and suburbs.

  • Where is your Bench?: Creating a campaign to encourage people to identify, establish and leverage safe spaces ontheir own blocks where people can gather (or already do) and get to know each other on a regular basis.

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