Arts & Entertainment

2nd "Big Table" Event Scheduled for Spring 2020 in Pittsburgh

They expected 500 people at the first event. 4,000 showed up. So they're doing it again.

Aradhna Oliphant says for months, she couldn't go anywhere without people asking her: when are you doing another Big Table? No wonder! When her organization, Leadership Pittsburgh, started working on a one-day "community conversation" event, they expected, maybe, 500 people to participate. 4,000 showed up.

Sparkt fans will remember the Big Table from our previous stories:

First-Ever Event Hopes to Unify Community Through Conversation

Strangers Become Friends Around a Big Table

The Big Table event encouraged people to get together in diverse groups of 8-12 for a meal and meaningful conversation about the Pittsburgh region's shared values and what can be done to make the community more caring and connected.

"It blew my mind," said Oliphant about the amazing turnout.

The Tables were held everywhere, from peoples' homes to restaurants, workplaces and public spaces. They included people of all ages, races and backgrounds, representing 133 unique zip codes. "The (Leadership Pittsburgh) board and I were really overwhelmed by how an idea that is so simple, time together, felt so precious for our community," said Oliphant.

Oliphant says the board has voted to do a second Big Table in the spring of 2020. "It seemed like a no-brainer." This year's event "touched that need for self determination in people that we are seeing increasingly more potent," she reflected. "People have information and ideas and want to participate and engage with each other in a meaningful way." This simple idea provided the backbone" for that.

Dick Building Company "had a fantastic evening" around their Big Table at Gaucho Parilla Argentina restaurant.

Among those who participated in the Big Table event, 1264 took a survey and here's what they said:

  • 98% would participate in another Big Table
  • 73% met someone new at their table
  • 73% talked about three or more topics at their table

TedxPittsburgh spent breakfast "talking about how the path toward a city that's more connected and welcoming is blazed by the stories we tell."

Participants also reported which topics were discussed at their tables, and Leadership Pittsburgh ranked the top five most-talked-about:

  • Education 61%
  • Race Relations 46%
  • Volunteerism 44%
  • Childrens' Needs 41%
  • Poverty 38%

This data was provided to community leaders like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, county council, regional mayors and leaders of service organizations, many of whom attended a Big Table. The hope is that the information could be factored into decisions that will influence the region going forward.

Rich Fitzgerald (center) invited Grow Pittsburgh's Jake Seltman (behind him) and leaders of 8 other non-profits to breakfast.

And here's some more great news. Big Table 2020 already has a sponsor: Bank of America. "It was an honor to be a part of the inaugural Big Table event and the important conversations that took place that day," said Brian Ludwick, Bank of America's Pittsburgh market president. "Leadership Pittsburgh is a great partner, and we thank them for the opportunity to come together as a community and put movement behind the meaningful discussions that happened across the region."

(Images: Leadership Pittsburgh Twitter page )

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