The GREATER CLEVELAND ROUNDTABLE, a nonprofit private organization founded in 1981 by leaders from the business, education, labor, civic, and religious organizations to improve multicultural and multiracial relations in the city of Cleveland and facilitate minority economic inclusion in Northeast Ohio. At its inception, the Roundtable's Board of Trustees, chaired by E. Mandel de Windt, hired Sarah Short Austin, formerly with the National Urban Coalition, as executive director. The membership of the privately funded Roundtable was composed of 60 leading representatives of business, labor, churches, suburbs, neighborhood organizations, social agencies, and the black community who were committed to shaping an inclusive urban community, one that invites the social and economic participation of all racial and ethnic groups in Cleveland. Accordingly, the Roundtable discussions centered around five major problem areas: public education, economic development, housing, neighborhood development, and race relations. Among the causes the group supported were: the 1984 CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS levy (the first successful one in 12 years), the need for a domed stadium, and the management crisis at the CUYAHOGA METROPOLITAN HOUSING AUTHORITY. In 1993, the Intercultural Community Council was organized by the Roundtable to promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation through education. The Roundtable adopted a more proactive outlook in 2003, seeking to institute constructive change in the community through public discourse and training. In 2004, the Greater Cleveland Roundtable joined the GREATER CLEVELAND GROWTH ASSOCIATION and CLEVELAND TOMORROW in forming the Greater Cleveland Partnership, an organization focused on improving the local economy and fostering racial harmony. Danny R. Williams served as the CEO and president of the Roundtable prior to the merger.
Throughout its history, the Greater Cleveland Roundtable cooperated extensively with local organizations and businesses to better the community economically as well as socially. Working with the National Conference for Community and Justice and the PLAIN DEALER, the Roundtable launched Project CommUnity: Different People. Common Ground. with the aim of furthering understanding among men and women, blacks and whites, the able-bodied and the disabled, and fostering an awareness of and appreciation for diversity in Cleveland. The Cleveland Commission on Economic Partnerships and Inclusion was organized by the Roundtable, Cleveland Tomorrow, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, and the URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND to collaborate with local businesses in increasing workplace diversity. The Roundtable also launched the Cleveland Residential Housing and Mortgage Credit Project in cooperation with the FEDERAL RESERVE, the Cuyahoga County Department of Development, and Ohio Civil Rights Commission to increase awareness of lending discrimination among the business community and work with local lending institutions to remedy existing problems. In collaboration with the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Tomorrow, the Roundtable organized the Minority Economic Opportunity Center Growth Association to foster minority entrepreneurship, encourage the hiring and promotion of minorities, and provide development counseling and unemployment services. In addition to these collaborative ventures, the Roundtable offered custom-made diversity education programs to leaders of communities with shifting racial populations. The work of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable was largely funded by grants from prominent local foundations and businesses, the GUND FOUNDATION, the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, and EATON CORPORATION.
In March 2004, the GREATER CLEVELAND GROWTH ASSOCIATION, CLEVELAND TOMORROW, and the Greater Cleveland Roundtable merged to form the Greater Cleveland Partnership. The merger encompassed the affiliates of these bodies such as COSE, the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition, and the Commission on Economic Inclusion.