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Q&A with Kelley Griesmer, Organizer of The Big Table

The Big Table® is a day of community-focused conversations that take place all across our region. Why does The Columbus Foundation put on this event?

The Columbus Foundation’s mission is to assist donors and others in strengthening and improving our community for the benefit of all its residents. The Big Table allows us to carry out that mission by inviting the entire community to join together and broaden each other’s perspectives about how we can build the community together. The participants shape their conversations themselves and the main goal is to listen and learn from each other so that we can all move the community forward.

What do you want to see accomplished through The Big Table? What do you hope people get out of their experience?

The Big Table is all about authentic human connection. In today’s world, we all spend so much time interacting with each other via technology. But we learn the most when we sit down and look each other in the eyes and intently listen to each other’s thoughts and experiences. It’s not necessarily about changing minds, but it is about being willing to broaden our perspectives and consider new viewpoints for the good of the entire community.

I hope that participants leave their conversations energized and inspired by the power of their connections. I hope they realize that there is value to being vulnerable and open to what we can accomplish together even despite our many differences. I hope they will be more likely to continue reaching out to others and lead the way for more conversations about how we can improve our community all year-round.

Who can you expect to meet at The Big Table?

Anyone and everyone! All Big Table conversations are good conversations and absolutely anyone can participate. Some people may sit down with people they see often in their daily lives, and that’s fine. Others may meet people they’ve never met before. Many hosts purposefully mix their networks at The Big Table to increase the chances of broadening perspectives. The Big Table also creates unique opportunities for participants to voluntarily meet brand new people at public locations like local library branches, restaurants and schools. Find public conversation locations here.

What type of follow-up ideas or activities have you seen come out of a Big Table conversation?

Many groups schedule more conversations and gatherings to build on the connections they make at The Big Table and develop ideas that naturally flow from their ongoing discussions. There have been a number of wonderful projects that have developed over time. One group started a little free pantry system after participating in The Big Table. Another group created a photography program for middle schoolers at a Columbus City School. Another group adopted a non-profit that provides summer camp and after school activities for Linden-area youth and continue to do service projects on their behalf. 

How can I get involved in The Big Table?

It really couldn’t be easier to participate in a Big Table conversation. You simply need to gather with a group of 8-12 others to talk about how, together, we can create a strong and connected community. This can happen anytime on August 29 at any place that is comfortable for you, such as your home, office, school, or civic or religious gathering place. Bring some snacks and have a bite to eat while you listen and learn from your table’s participants. If you want a little help kickstarting the conversation, check out the Conversation Guide. If you still have questions, just email – we’re happy to help!

See you around The Big Table on August 29!

Aug 24, 2018


Kelley Griesmer, J.D., CAP®

is the Senior Vice President and Manager, Walter Family Philanthropy, of The Columbus Foundation.