Some conversations Charlotte needs to have

Audience members listen in March during the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force presentation of the Leading On Opportunity report.
Audience members listen in March during the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force presentation of the Leading On Opportunity report.

From Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation; Brian Collier, Foundation For The Carolinas; and Dianne English, Community Building Initiative:

Three years ago, when Charlotte was ranked 50th out of 50 big cities for economic mobility, our city was publicly outed as a place where those in need have little to no hope of improving their stations in life. This raised even deeper questions: How could so many of us have no idea this was happening? How could we be so disconnected from the truth? How could we be so disconnected from each other?

We waited with great anticipation for the report from the Opportunity Task Force, which identified daunting problems and raised solutions, or at least ideas that will move us toward solutions. But we also read this: “We believe our report can serve as a catalyst for engaging our community in a deeper conversation and continued investigation of the best paths forward.”

It is in that spirit that we now move to connect people, and to give them the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their thoughts on how to improve our community. In the long run, a more connected city will increase trust and opportunity. And that is the mission of On The Table CLT.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has brought On The Table CLT to Charlotte in partnership with the Foundation For the Carolinas. The Knight Foundation selected Charlotte as one of 10 cities to participate in this national initiative to explore local problems and opportunities as a community. Community Building Initiative will spearhead the project in Charlotte.

From the early morning to late at night on Wednesday, more than 5,000 people from all walks of life – all ages, races and genders – will come together in small groups. They will gather throughout that day over coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks – at offices, local restaurants, breweries or parks – to talk about how we can make this county more connected, inclusive and dynamic.

There are several ways to participate in On The Table CLT:

▪ Host a group. It’s easy. Just register as a host at and download the host toolkit. Then invite eight to 10 people to come together at some point on Wednesday for 90 minutes.

▪ Join a group. Go to and click “Find a Table” to search options near you.

▪ Participate in Wednesday’s conversation on social media using #OnTheTableCLT.

After the event, everyone who participated in On The Table CLT will receive a survey about their experience. The results of that survey will be shared publicly, and specifically with ongoing efforts such as Leading on Opportunity. In addition, we will share lessons from our event across the nation.

Now is the time to have a voice and participate in conversations that will feed our vision for the future of this region. While no one solution exists for all the challenges that Charlotte faces, progress in any area will require sharing, listening and trust-building among residents.