On the Table

What is On the Table?

On the Table (OTT) is a three-year civic engagement initiative, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and initially developed by The Chicago Community Trust. On the Table Silicon Valley began in 2017 with the goal of increasing community engagement and creating gathering spaces where community leaders and residents can tell stories, share resources, discuss community issues and collaborate to solve critical local challenges. We hope these community conversations and shared meals will continue to bring people together to brainstorm solutions that residents, policymakers and philanthropists can put into action. 

(2017) Year 1: Elevating community stories

SVCF intentionally designed OTT to 1) involve the Bay Area region by inviting community leaders and residents to host and participate in OTT conversations and 2) focus conversations around one critical issue: housing. In 2017, about 7,000 participants shared stories of the impact of the Bay Area's housing crisis on their lives and families.

(2018) Year 2: Working toward solutions

After sharing personal housing stories in 2017, participants wanted to know what they can do about the housing crisis. Because of this feedback, 2018 conversations were crafted to be solutions-oriented and focused on identifying pathways to action. 

(2019) Year 3: Reimagining relationships beyond the table

After two years of implementing OTT in the San Francisco Bay Area, SVCF has demonstrated our commitment to deepening relationships with the communities we serve. As part of that commitment, SVCF will support the continued implementation of OTT conversations to generate community-driven solutions.

We invite you to explore the resources below and reach out to onthetable@siliconvalleycf.org for more information. 

Community Housing

Civic Participation


What's it like?

Talking with neighbors and friends is a great way to move our communities forward. On the Table conversations root our work and decisions in the lived experiences of community members and elevate issues important to them. 

These conversations build trust and help shift longstanding power dynamics. Key elements of OTT conversations include:

- A community-driven agenda based on needs and hopes of community members

- An exchange of ideas, stories, concerns and aspirations

- A civic facilitated conversation, not a debate or a monologue

- Anyone can host or participate

Hear what particiants said about On the Table 2018:

Host resources

SVCF offers a variety of resources to support On The Table hosts. In 2018, we shared the following resources with our conversation hosts. Stay tuned for 2019 resources in fall 2019. 

Couldn't make it to orientation? Watch a recording.

Download or print the Host Guide.

Print a guest sign in sheet

Print handouts for your guests


Reflections from 2017

In 2017, Silicon Valley Community Foundation launched its first On The Table, bringing together approximately 7,000 residents at nearly 800 conversations to talk about our regional housing challenges in the Bay Area.

Learn more about the activities that took place and the ideas and trends identified through the events:

Many thanks to all who made #OnTheTableSV a reality -- The John S. and James. L Knight Foundation, all our hosts and participants, and our community advisory group: People Acting in Community Together, Faith In Action, Youth Leadership Institute, Silicon Valley @ Home, Destination: Home, Housing Trust Silicon Valley, Urban Habitat, Unity Care and Housing Leadership Council, San Mateo County.