After focusing on civility in the Upper Arlington community and beyond at last year's Big Table, organizers of this year's event hope to spark conversations on a range of topics.
Four years ago, the Columbus Foundation created the Big Table project as a way to build community by bringing people together to discuss topics of interest and concern in small to large group settings.
The Upper Arlington Community Foundation has taken part in the event each year, and with partners such as the Upper Arlington Public Library, will do so again this year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Amelita Mirolo Barn, 4395 Carriage Hill Lane.
Registration can be completed at upperarlingtonoh.gov/event/the-big-table.
There are three sessions: 8:30 to 10 a.m., 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Discussion topics include community connectedness; health and wellness; attractions and destinations in UA; inclusivity; communication between residents and organizations; safety; and environment.
"We'll have a table host assigned to each table," said Jennifer Faure, community engagement specialist for the Upper Arlington Public Library. "They'll sort of facilitate each discussion and there will be someone to record key findings from each discussion."
From there, Faure said, the groups will report discussion aspects and key findings from their table's talks.
"Conversations will center around community issues that are important and relevant to the participants," said Tracy Harbold, UACF executive director. "This is a great opportunity to connect with other members of the community, as well as the leaders of community organizations."
Faure said last year's Big Table drew 50 adult participants and 48 from Upper Arlington High School.
The discussions started with ways to bring civil discourse to the community and why it matters.
Faure said the event yielded a number of followup exercises, including UAHS teachers using the topic in curriculum; the creation of a youth advisory board that interacts with Upper Arlington City Council; and networking between Big Table participants and local organizations seeking to increase civility and inclusion in the community.
The event also helped Big Table organizers refine this year's format.
"Last year, some of the students had the idea to allow people to choose from a menu of topics that they would like to talk about that would define table assignments," Faure said. "They felt that this would allow people who are interested in particular topics to be matched up for discussion rather than having the table decide on a topic after a period of more general discussion. So we're trying that this year.
"Once again, we'll remind people of the ground rules for civil discourse to help the conversations stay focused and solutions-oriented."
Faure said library officials remain committed to the event because "the library is dedicated to being an important resource to the community and engagement is important to us."
"These community conversations are a great way for the library to gain an understanding of the needs and wants of our residents that help inform services and resources that we can offer," she said. "It's also an opportunity to deepen our connections with other community organizations in a meaningful way."
Organizers expect about 50 UAHS students to participate, in addition to adult registrants.
Harbold said the UACF is an affiliate of the Columbus Foundation and continues to support the Big Table program.
She said it's the community foundation's mission to "respond to community needs and opportunities and serve as a catalyst to initiate projects vital to a community's health and vibrancy."
"This event is a great way for us to hear from our community members about what is important to them so we can continue to grow our impact," she said.
"It is a wonderful way to meet your fellow community members and discuss important community issues as well as come up with creative ways to implement ideas, working together as neighbors."