Table Talk 

MPACT chats with city leaders and citizens.

Through the end of the month, leaders in business, government, education, and community organization will sit down with MPACT Memphis to discuss the state of the city. The nonprofit's Feedback Chat series will cover issues — environmental friendliness, professional opportunities, and racial diversity — that young Memphians say the city needs to improve.

"We've invited a lot of people who don't normally interact with each other," says Penelope McDowell, MPACT's communications coordinator. "It's important that we ask leaders to speak but also the people who are going to implement the change."

The Feedback Chats are the second phase of Voice of MPACT, a plan launched in July 2009 with an in-depth survey of how young professionals view Memphis, both now and in the future.

True to their name, the chats are open-forum conversations about the issues covered in the survey.

"We're doing a lot of listening right now," McDowell says, explaining that the chats are just that — conversations around a table where anyone present can speak. "We want to give people the opportunity to say what they want to say."

So far, Voice of MPACT has focused on what a group of Memphians feel should be done, but the project is also concerned with what's already happening in the city. McDowell says they hope to expose the holes in the system: the issues that aren't being addressed or the great projects that no one knows about.

"Duplication is a prevalent issue in the nonprofit world," she says.

Why focus on young professionals? McDowell says it's no secret that many young, college-educated Memphians are leaving to find work.

"It's not that people necessarily want to leave," she says. "They like Memphis; they can see themselves here. But the opportunities aren't presenting themselves."

MPACT hopes that the combined effect of the Feedback Chats and the initial survey will help MPACT launch the third stage of its plan: taking action.

"This is the next generation of leaders," she says. "What can we do to make them stay?"

MPACT's Feedback Chats are free and open to the public and will be held July 19th, 20th, 26th, 27th, and 28th at 5:30 p.m. at the organization's offices at 506 S. Main. Reservations are required. Visit mpactmemphis.org for more information.

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