What is On the Table?
On the Table (OTT) is a three-year civic engagement initiative, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and initially developed by The Chicago Community Trust. On the Table Silicon Valley began in 2017 with the goal of increasing community engagement and creating gathering spaces where community leaders and residents can tell stories, share resources, discuss community issues and collaborate to solve critical local challenges. We hope these community conversations and shared meals will continue to bring people together to brainstorm solutions that residents, policymakers and philanthropists can put into action.
(2017) Year 1: Elevating community stories
SVCF intentionally designed OTT to 1) involve the Bay Area region by inviting community leaders and residents to host and participate in OTT conversations and 2) focus conversations around one critical issue: housing. In 2017, about 7,000 participants shared stories of the impact of the Bay Area's housing crisis on their lives and families.
(2018) Year 2: Working toward solutions
After sharing personal housing stories in 2017, participants wanted to know what they can do about the housing crisis. Because of this feedback, 2018 conversations were crafted to be solutions-oriented and focused on identifying pathways to action.
(2019/2020) Year 3: Reimagining relationships beyond the table
After two years of implementing OTT in the San Francisco Bay Area, SVCF has demonstrated our commitment to deepening relationships with the communities we serve. As part of that commitment, SVCF will support the continued implementation of OTT conversations to generate community-driven solutions.
In January 2020, hundreds of community conversations will take place throughout Silicon Valley. Neighbors, friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances will gather together to discuss civic engagement in our region. Like voting in elections or participating in the census, we believe that making time to connect with diverse members of your community is in itself a powerful civic act. These community conversations are designed to be flexible, relevant and civil. Anyone can host a conversation and we invite you to to talk about what matters most to you and be part of the movement!
What's On the Table like?
Talking with neighbors and friends is a great way to move our communities forward. On the Table conversations root our work and decisions in the lived experiences of community members and elevate issues important to them.
These conversations build trust and help shift longstanding power dynamics. Key elements of OTT conversations include:
- A community-driven agenda based on needs and hopes of community members
- An exchange of ideas, stories, concerns and aspirations
- A civic facilitated conversation, not a debate or a monologue
- Anyone can host or participate
Hear what particiants said about On the Table 2018:
- 2020 host guide
- Participant surveys in both Spanish and English
- Conversation sign-in sheet
- Learn about OTT at the national level and what other communities are doing
- We're hosting OTT office hours on Thursday, Jan. 9 at SVCF's Mountain View office and Friday, January 10 in our San Mateo office from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. On either day, stop in to the office or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a phone conversation. We'll help you brainstorm and design your community conversation and answer any questions!
Reflections from 2017
In 2017, Silicon Valley Community Foundation launched its first On The Table, bringing together approximately 7,000 residents at nearly 800 conversations to talk about our regional housing challenges in the Bay Area.
Learn more about the activities that took place and the ideas and trends identified through the events:
More on the housing crisis
- SVCF Housing and Transit Report
- SVCF and Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy Silicon Valley Housing Crisis Policy Brief
- Video: Los Altos – An Affordable Place to Live in Silicon Valley?
- Philanthropy Now Podcast: Buena Vista Mobile Home Park
- CalMatters Podcast: California Housing Costs Creating Harsh Reality for Refugees
- Terner Center Policy Brief: Finding Common Ground on Rent Control
- KQED: Is Rent Control Working and Should We Have More or Less of It?
- San Francisco Public Press: Creative Solutions to Housing Crisis
Many thanks to all who made #OnTheTableSV a reality -- The John S. and James. L Knight Foundation, all our hosts and participants, and our community advisory group: People Acting in Community Together, Faith In Action, Youth Leadership Institute, Silicon Valley @ Home, Destination: Home, Housing Trust Silicon Valley, Urban Habitat, Unity Care and Housing Leadership Council, San Mateo County.