Common Ground Events Connect Clevelanders

A view of the Public Square Common Ground gathering [Photo Courtesy the Cleveland Foundation]
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About 600 people sat in folding chairs at banquet tables in Public Square Sunday afternoon for a free, community meal and conversation.

The event was designed as a place to meet new people, share a bite to eat and talk about ways to make Cleveland better.

The Cleveland Foundation hosted the Public Square event and 41 others across Cuyahoga County, all branded Common Ground, on Sunday. Many were held at mealtimes and in conjunction with partner organizations.

 “There is something special about actually sitting down and sharing a meal,” said Stephanie Hicks Thompson, marketing and communications officer at the Cleveland Foundation.

Thompson estimated at least 1,500 people attended one of the gatherings, which were patterned after a concept out of Chicago called “On the Table” facilitated by the Chicago Community Trust.

“They started with 5,000 people participating the first year,” she said. “This last year they had it in May and they had almost 100,000 people participate.

Thompson said the Cleveland Foundation plans to do this again next year and grow the reach.

Discussions covered a variety of topics, including homelessness, violence, transportation and education.

Some of the arts topics discussed included the arts’ role in the community with kids and the future of the Coventry PEACE Campus, which is home to Ensemble Theatre and other non-profits in Cleveland Heights.

The talks were not formally recorded by the Cleveland Foundation, and what comes next is up to participants.

“We wanted people to be able to take it where they wanted to go,” Hicks Thomspon said.

The Cleveland Foundation is conducting a post-event survey and working with Cleveland State University to release a study from the responses in the fall.

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