Across The Table's mission is to break down the barriers between diverse communities by connecting and unifying people from varied backgrounds and perspectives through topic-focused, facilitated conversation.
Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are filled with diverse communities, but it is so rare to have the chance to have a meaningful connection with people outside of our own, familiar worlds. Across The Table in Evanston is a nonprofit organization that puts an end to that with a forum designed to help you broaden your horizons, meet new people and maybe even make new friends while expressing your beliefs over a delicious meal!
Lauren Grossman started Across The Table in 2008 when she found herself frustrated by how segregated our communities were (and still are) and the lack of opportunities to form meaningful connections and relationships with people whose worlds and experiences were different from her own. So she decided to do something about it and started Across The Table.
Lauren taught high school at Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago and was consistently inspired by the open, honest and direct conversations she had with her students about race, socio-economics and ethnicity. She wanted to create the opportunity for adults to talk in the same way. Now we can!
She successfully ran Across The Table in Chicago for three years until her oldest son was born in 2011, at which time she decided to put Across The Table on hold and focus on her family. However, we are excited to announce that Across The Table is back and relaunched in March of 2017 in Evanston!
Gathering locations vary. Our goal is to ensure we have the opportunity to explore new neighborhoods, locations and communities. Our group discussions may take place in the private dining rooms of local restaurants, art galleries, community organizations, arts organizations or other event spaces throughout Evanston, Illinois. If you have any place you’d like us to consider, just let us know!
View our upcoming Across The Table gatherings.
Almost all meals are vegetarian (those that aren't will be indicated) and all are served family style. Some restaurants are BYOB so if you’d like to bring your own beer or wine, you’re more than welcome to do so! In other cases, you can order drinks off of the menu. When a discussion doesn’t take place at a restaurant, Across The Table partners with catering companies that provide tasty and memorable meals.
Group discussions are limited to ten people in total, including the facilitator. We've concluded that having a ten-person table allows for high-energy conversation in which all the voices are heard. This is a great setting to meet new people and engage in thoughtful discussion bridging economic and racial barriers. Take a peek at our past Across The Table gatherings to get a better idea of what our meals look like!
YES! Everyone is welcome. The more diverse, the better. No matter your age, race, gender, income level, place of residence, past or present, you are welcome to join us! In fact, we encourage it! Our only request is that all attendees are over the age of 21 as alcoholic beverages are commonly consumed during the meal.
Across The Table meals cost $30 per person. This does not include the cost of beverages. However, if you’re on a budget, email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our $10 options!
As we mentioned, all conversations are facilitated. Founder and Executive Director, Lauren Grossman, has a background in teaching as well as founding and leading a nonprofit outdoor education program for teens in Chicago.
She has facilitated over 100 conversations over the years and is well equipped to take a topic (which will be identified ahead of time) and help lead conversation amongst everyone at the table. Conversation topics range from "What does it mean to be an insider and an outsider?" to “What does it mean to be free?" or "What is the good life and are we living it?"
If Lauren isn’t your facilitator, do not worry! Across The Table chooses very warm and experienced people to be volunteer facilitators and Lauren trains everyone so that regardless of who your facilitator is, you will have the best Across The Table experience.
The goal for all of the topics is to make sure they are interesting, fun and allow for anyone to participate, regardless of education level, knowledge of current events or the arts.
The facilitator makes sure that all voices are heard at the table. Everyone’s voice matters.