On October 17th as part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s On the Table Initiative, 220 people gathered at the War Memorial for the Rotary Club of Milwaukee’s weekly meeting. 140 Rotarians and 80 guests were randomly assigned to 30 tables. Everyone had a chance to talk with someone they had never met before. Facilitators engaged the participants in rich conversation around five specific questions.
The energy in the room was palpable. People left the room planning for the next conversation. The “hard output” consists of 150 pages of notes carefully created by a recorder assigned to each table. What do these notes tell us?
The ideas and meanings from the table discussions did not leap out complete with interpretation and insight. Four Rotarians carefully gleaned the data with a goal of producing an ‘analysis” based on emergent themes. (The original notes and information on the methodology are available on request.)
One overall theme emerged:
We should foster stronger, connected communities and neighborhoods.
Other themes are organized by discussion question.
What are you proud of about where you live?
People discussed how they love the diverse population in strong neighborhoods with distinctive characteristics. You can’t beat Milwaukee’s lakefront, natural resources, public spaces and parks. Milwaukee has a strong arts community and cultural amenities. It’s also generally easy to get around the vibrant City and to easily participate in civic efforts.
If you had unlimited resources, what would you do to improve the region?
Conversations focused on the need to eliminate barriers that prevent all people in the City from full participation in the richness Milwaukee offers. We need to strengthen the education system, support families that are hurting and address institutional weaknesses like governmental overlap and inadequate public transportation to connect people and jobs.
What can each of us do to help build stronger, more connected communities?
Get out of our comfort zone. Encourage people to get to know their community better by connecting with the unfamiliar parts of the community. The intent is to build greater understanding, kindness and empathy.
How can Rotary ensure that greater Milwaukee is a globally competitive, 21st century region?
Rotary should seek ways to use its influence and connections to create a voice—become an advocate on selected issues.
To view the full On the Table recap report, please contact the Rotary office. We would like to make a special thanks to Rotarians Harry Drake, Joe Caruso and Kathie Kueht for helping us sort through over 150 pages of data to create this report!