The Big Table
How We Started
The Big Table began in early 2017 as a way to connect over stories and food… a simple and yet very effective way of bringing people together. From the premise that beliefs are based upon our lived experiences we wanted to address our divides by creating an experience where 'the other' wasn't so far away.
A unique aspect of The Big Table is the intentionality around having conversations. On the surface it's a simple potluck. The intention, however, is much deeper: hoping to create a space for those of all beliefs and backgrounds to come together in order to connect, especially in a time when our society holds so many opposing points of view.
We hope The Big Table will spur a variety of other creative events, like smaller dinners and talking circles that face differences head-on and strengthen the fabric of our community.
How We're Organized
Intentionally, we have no central stage or entertainment at our events - the magic is in what happens at the table. To foster more intimate conversations and depth of connection participants are organized around tables of eight or less.
We now offer you two ways to participate in unique experiences that foster powerful conversations and meaningful connections:
A Giant Potluck!: Each participant is asked to bring a dish, fruit, dessert, or non-alcoholic drink to share with at least eight people. We encourage everyone to bring a dish that reflects something about them, has a family story, or personal significance, along with a recipe card. Tables, chairs, eating utensils, and plates are provided.
Walk and Talk: The magic of The Big Table, but in motion! Participants go for a walk together in small groups, using our Conversation Cards to connect. The effect is meaningful conversations that navigate difference, whether it's with people they have just met, or have known all their lives.
Our volunteer planning team contacts as many civic groups and organizations across the city as possible to ensure that all segments of the community are invited and represented. This creates a rich confluence of neighborhoods, cultures, ethnicities, and ages. It's a space to not only meet someone new but to gain perspective of what it's like to walk in their shoes.
The event has grown every year to host 1800 participants in 2019, its third year.
One striking effect is that people aren’t on their phones. Instead, they are talking and really listening to one another, laughing, and even crying. In just two hours people turn from strangers to friends.
We surveyed our participants about their experience and here's what we learned:
When asked about the most meaningful part of the event, survey respondents said, “Exchanging personal stories,” “Seeing the huge turnout,” “Enjoying diverse foods,” “A warm sense of community.”
81% met someone new from a different believe system than theirs at the event
64% have plans to reconnect with people from the event
97% said they would recommend this event to others
Some tables have continued to meet afterward, and we even learned of one couple who met at the first Big Table!