On the Table

...is a nationwide community engagement initiative with a simple premise:

on one day, people gather in small groups to share food and conversation, discussing how to make their community a strong, vibrant place to live.


Hosting an On the Table conversation is easy, and anyone can do it, no matter their role, background, or experience. The goals: 1) learn what issues matter most to community members, and 2) help people connect face-to-face, which can inspire them to take action to address challenges or seize opportunities in their communities.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, with support from the Knight Foundation, decided to bring On the Table to our region and focus the conversations around young people: what do youth need to grow and thrive here? When they asked EarlyWorks to help them launch and run the initiative, we jumped at the chance.

Over the course of ten months, we designed, launched and executed a project plan that made On the Table a success. This included a robust community outreach program to engage residents, leaders and organizations across the region, earned and paid media to raise awareness of the initiative, digital strategies, and facilitating a seamless evaluation process.

On October 4, 2017, over 2,000 people across the southeast Michigan region gathered in small groups to share food and discuss how to make their communities places where young people can grow and thrive. Over 200 of these conversations took place, and they happened in all seven counties that make up the region. The initiative was covered in 17 media pieces that lifted up the unique perspectives and concerns of a wide variety of residents.

People loved the experience. On the Table showed that the region’s appetite for coming together to share conversation and community is huge: not a single On the Table host said they wouldn’t participate again. In particular, the initiative was recognized for creating a rare opportunity for young people to share directly with adults about the challenges they experience, the opportunities they see, and the needs they want addressed.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan will release a detailed report exploring the conversation themes and takeaways in 2018.