Food + Conversation = FoodSpark Miami

Naomi RossDowntown Miami’s Art Days weekend Sept. 11-13 features the debut of FoodSpark Miami, one of the winners in the 2015 Public Space Challenge to connect Miamians to the community and each other. We talked with Naomi Ross, founder of Celebrate Diversity Miami, who submitted the idea for the social-issues brainstorming meal, held on Sunday at the DWNTWN Arts Fair:

What can visitors expect?

FoodSpark Miami is much more than a traditional pop-up potluck. It’s about people from different walks of life throughout greater Miami coming together to connect around important social issues that impact us all. Our kick-off event coincides with The Feast Worldwide’s Global Action Dinner, so we’ll be joining groups across the world in an action-oriented movement focused on empowering and inspiring each other to create a better future for our communities. In addition to guests enjoying savory and sweet bites of food provided by local restaurants, we’ll be encouraging people to bring prepared dishes of their favorite food too if they want to. There’ll be music playing in the background thanks to a local DJ, and after everyone eats, the main program consisting of group dialogue activities will begin.

What’s on the agenda?

I’m currently gauging interest via a simple online survey in broad social issue topic areas such as Education, Environment, Health & Wellness, Housing, Economic Development, and Infrastructure. There will be three final topics chosen for the tables on Sunday, and attendees are going to rotate where they sit several times throughout the event in order to meet new people, and have a chance to talk about each of the key social issues in-depth.

Is there a moderator? 

We’re not going to have an official moderator. Rather, several group dialogue facilitators are going to be there to help guide the conversations along if needed. Instead of one large group discussion, there will be smaller groups engaging in dialogue at their tables so everyone has a chance to actively interact and contribute their ideas. 

What’s the space like?

We’ll be outdoors with long rectangular tables set-up for the registration and potluck food areas, as well as for general seating. A stage where announcements will be made and our DJ plays music from is going to be located at one end of the space, while a large-scale photo-voice exhibit showcasing the diversity of our local neighborhoods will be at the other. 

Will this happen again?

Yes, FoodSpark Miami will be popping up in the city of Hialeah in February 2016, thanks to support from the 2015 Public Space Challenge. We’ve also received interest from other communities about holding additional gatherings, so when those are confirmed the details will be shared on our social media.

What do you envision coming out of this project?

The overall impact we’re looking to provide participants of a FoodSpark Miami gathering with is that it’s possible to discuss important social issues with fellow citizens in an interactive, refreshing way. We’re looking to break down the interpersonal barriers that often exist between diverse groups in our greater Miami community by simply bringing people together over food at regular tables in an outdoor area, and creating an environment that fosters real connections between them. FoodSpark Miami also presents an opportunity to demonstrate how a public space can positively transform when designed for encouraging interactions between the people there.

Follow Celebrate Diversity Miami on Facebook and Twitter @DiversityMiami. The official FoodSpark Miami hashtag is #FoodSparkMIA.

The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge uncovers the best ideas for creating, improving and activating parks, plazas and local gathering places. Together with Health Foundation of South Florida and Baptist Health South Florida, we invest $305,000 to make the top ideas a reality.

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