Everyone wants a seat at the table. Common Ground offers the ability to take a seat – or to set the table for others – and participate in community conversations designed to encourage and foster new connections. Common Ground challenges individuals, organizations and community leaders to build, join and share conversations across our region each summer.
Developed by the Cleveland Foundation in partnership with nonprofit and civic organizations across the region, Common Ground is focused on building connections, valuing all voices, and sharing ideas on how to move Greater Cleveland forward. This series celebrates the 5th year of Common Ground by looking back at what our community created each year during this event. Check out all of these Common Ground recaps and learn more about how you can join in, here.
Common Ground began in 2017 with conversations centered around the theme “What can we do together to create a more equitable and resilient community?” On July 30 at 2 p.m., Public Square transformed into Cleveland’s largest outdoor conversation space, with the aim of bringing more than 1,000 residents together. In addition to the Public Square event, numerous conversations happened across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties, during which residents were invited to break bread together and connect.
Setting the table for Common Ground
Common Ground is more than just a one-day experience. As a lead-up, The City Club of Cleveland hosted “For the Love of Cleveland,” a free series of neighborhood dialogues presented by the Cleveland Foundation. Scheduled every Tuesday at noon on Public Square from June 13 – July 25 (with the exception of July 4), For the Love of Cleveland focused on issues of importance to the broader community through the lens of different neighborhood pairings each week, highlighting emerging placemakers and neighborhoods throughout the city of Cleveland.
A diverse range of community conversations
In addition to Public Square, there were 42 additional conversations hosted by community members, with more than 2,000 total participants representing 76 zip codes around the region. Along with resident-hosted sites, Common Ground partners held open conversations in neighborhoods, places of worship, libraries, recreation centers, parks and more – in an effort to create new relationships and form new ideas.
The 2017 Common Ground conversations took many forms and covered a wide range of topics. There was Reducing Plastic hosted by the City of Cleveland Department of Sustainability, which talked about how to lower the amount of plastic waste in our environment. Another conversation was hosted by Karamu House about placemaking in the arts. The beauty of warm weather and fun in the sun prompted several outdoor conversations as well. The Cleveland Metroparks held theirs at Edgewater Beach House as a celebration of their centennial to discuss the organization’s next 100 years. There were also conversations about what it takes to support our region’s kids; The Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland got outside at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to host a conversation about keeping our neighborhoods safe and the impact that doing so has on children. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District led conversations about what the definitions of “equity,” “resilience,” and “support” mean for students.
Participants reflect on their experience
As the conversations came to a close, participants were asked to complete a survey about their civic involvement, their hopes for the community, their experience at the conversation they attended, and the most urgent needs of the community. The survey responses identified urgent areas of community need: education, safety, diversity, racial equity and social justice. Of the people surveyed, 76% said that they wanted to create positive change, and 75% said they wanted to work with others to improve the quality of life in Greater Cleveland. Connectivity was also key, as 92% of people said they spoke with one or more attendees they did not already know. About half of this number (45%) exchanged contact information with one or more attendees who they did not know.
How you can get involved
Residents can get involved in Common Ground by hosting a conversation or participating in one or more events. For more details on host registration, trainings, and event calendars, visit commongroundcle.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.