“Collaboratories” Foster On The Table Ideas

An initiative that gathered over 11,000 Chicagoans at meals across the city, The Chicago Community Trust’s On The Table dinners, held May 12, 2014, focused conversation on improving and enriching Chicago communities. When leaders at The Chicago Community Trust (CCT) began to sift through the many ideas, they knew they had to push those ideas farther than simply mealtime conversation. Enter Chicago Ideas Week Labs.


Attendees design a blueprint for transforming Chicago’s
abandoned buildings at IDEO’s Opportunity Hubs Lab.

This year, six “collaboratories” gave CIW attendees the chance to flesh out the solutions that came out of OTT. Innovation consultancy firms Doblin, IDEOgravitytank and Greater Good Studio facilitated the six sessions, which ranged from brainstorming ways to transform abandoned buildings into “opportunity hubs” to creating a Generation Green and engaging youth in the green movement.

As CCT kicks off its centennial year, initiatives like On The Table are taking on even greater importance. Last week, CCT announced the theme for this year’s On The Table, to take place on May 12, 2015, would center on Chicago’s role as the “most philanthropic region in the nation.”With ideas centered on “collaboration, communication and connectivity,” the Labs were the perfect way to approach the ideas, Bina Patel, a consultant at Saathi Impact Consulting who assisted with the collaboratories, said. By providing “coaches and guidance,” the Trust hopes many of these ideas will come to fruition, according to Cheryl Hughes, CCT’s senior director of strategic initiatives.

“On the Table fits into our broader mission,” Hughes said. “This is our opportunity to hear directly from the community.”

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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