2018 Common Ground History

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.

With one year in the books, Common Ground 2018 was built around the question, “Why does place matter?” On June 24, over 4,000 participants gathered at more than 104 conversations across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties. Participants gathered in neighborhood spaces, places of worship, libraries, museums, parks, private homes and more to talk about the importance of place. A new and improved Common Ground infrastructure in 2018 included conversation facilitation training and small grants to support thoughtful action following the events.

Common Ground participants become hosts

Inspired by their experience the year before, many community members who participated in Common Ground 2017 were moved to become hosts in 2018. Julie Tamarkin decided to host a private event about the shared ownership of Wild Park. She wrote about her experience here, saying that she left the 2017 Common Ground conversation feeling “energized and hopeful.”

In 2018, Common Ground introduced additional assistance for hosts. In partnership with Neighbor Up, facilitation trainings were established to help hold more effective conversations at Common Ground events. Action planning support was also offered in the form of clinics and a small grants program to help participants who wanted to turn their conversation into immediate action. Through action clinics, funding workshops and small grants, Neighbor Up and ioby provided support for more than 40 Common Ground-inspired projects in 2018.


Nelson Beckford, Cleveland Foundation Program Director of Neighborhood Revitalization & Engagement, wrote that the best way to learn about a neighborhood or a place is by walking as a pedestrian. In 2018, we started the place-centered conversation in May, inviting participants to explore their surroundings by joining FredWalksCLE, a series of community walks that encouraged residents to get to know their community and the organizations doing great work in it.

Connecting people and place

For the main Common Ground event on June 24, conversations were held on a variety of topics. Edible Cleveland hosted a conversation about why local food matters, while the Ensemble Theatre from Coventry P.E.A.C.E. hosted a discussion about the future of the arts. Institutions like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Cuyahoga County Public Library held public conversations reflecting on how to inspire growth and development as well as how curiosity can lead to change. With the excitement continuing to build around Common Ground, conversations of all sizes were hosted in different settings – even in private homes! These private conversations were smaller groups of fewer than 20 people whose topics included how to make community a shared place, how to make opportunities accessible to all, and understanding the past to plan for the future. The conversations, whether public or private, had a unifying theme: to strengthen connections to the people and places that surrounded them.

Reflections and outcomes from Common Ground 2018

As the conversations came to a close, participants were again 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. Getting and staying connected was a resounding goal again in 2018, as 31% exchanged contact information with one or more attendees they did not know. Of the people surveyed, 90% said they were likely to take specific action on a new idea discussed, and 60% planned to seek assistance in taking next steps.

Thirteen community projects received immediate support from the inaugural round of Neighborhood Connections Common Ground Action grants. An additional four community leaders received $8,000 total to support Common Grond-inspired projects in Neighborhood Connections’ subsequent fall 2018 grant cycle. An additional 23 projects received up to $1,500 in matched dollars from the Common Ground ioby crowdfund match. In total, Common Ground projects used over $25,000 in grants to help build community!

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 commonground@clevefdn.org.