World Cafe

The world café has been chosen as one of the methodologies in Demo project, for enabling the different stages of inclusion: hosting, listening, participating, and collective action.

The World Café is a structured conversational process for knowledge sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic at several tables, with individuals switching tables periodically and being introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a "table host".

As well as speaking and listening, individuals may be encouraged to write down some of the discussion results in order to inform participants at a subsequent table on a specific topic. Although pre-defined questions may have been agreed upon at the beginning, outcomes or solutions are not decided in advance. An underlying assumption of world café events is that collective discussion can shift people's conceptions and encourage collective action.

The world café has been chosen as one of the methodologies in Demo project, for enabling the different stages of inclusion: hosting, listening, participating and collective action.

 The World Café is a structured conversational process for knowledge sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic at several tables, with individuals switching tables periodically and being introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a "table host".

As well as speaking and listening, individuals may be encouraged to write down some of the discussion results in order to inform participants at a subsequent table on a specific topic. Although pre-defined questions may have been agreed upon at the beginning, outcomes or solutions are not decided in advance. An underlying assumption of world café events is that collective discussion can shift people's conceptions and encourage collective action.

 

Method

World café events tend to have at least twelve participants, but there is theoretically no upper limit. Groups of about four to six participants sit around tables, together with a "table host", and discuss questions, which have been agreed upon at the beginning of the event or defined by the organisers in advance. Each table has a different set of questions belonging to a comprehensive theme. After approximately 20 minutes participants move to a next table where another topic—which ideally is built upon the previous one—is discussed. Discussion results are directly noted down on a makeshift paper table-cloth or a nearby flip chart. The "table host" welcomes new participants and informs them about the results of the previous discussion. Finally, the results of all groups are reflected in a common plenum session. Strategies for further actions and opportunities for further cooperation between participants are identified.

 

Design Principles

The following seven World Café design principles are an integrated set of ideas and practices that form the basis of the pattern embodied in the World Café process (see also the Wiser Together guiding principles for more about the World Cafe’s DNA)

(http://www.theworldcafe.com/services-programs/wiser-together/)

 

1) Set the Context
Pay attention to the reason for which you are bringing people together, and what you want to achieve. Knowing the purpose and parameters of your meeting enables you to consider and choose the most important elements to realize your goals: e.g. who should be part of the conversation, what themes or questions will be most pertinent, what sorts of harvest will be more useful, etc.

 

2) Create Hospitable Space
Café hosts around the world emphasize the power and importance of creating a hospitable space—one that feels safe and inviting. When people feel comfortable to be themselves, they do their most creative thinking, speaking, and listening. In particular, consider how your invitation and your physical set-up contribute to creating a welcoming atmosphere.

 

3) Explore Questions that Matter
Knowledge emerges in response to compelling questions. Find questions that are relevant to the real-life concerns of the group. Powerful questions that “travel well” help attract collective energy, insight, and action. Depending on the timeframe available and your objectives, your Café may explore a single question or use a progressively deeper line of inquiry through several conversational rounds.

 

4) Encourage Everyone’s Contribution
As leaders, we are increasingly aware of the importance of participation. But most people don’t want to merely participate, they want to actively contribute to making a difference. It is important to encourage everyone in your meeting to contribute ideas and perspectives, while also allowing anyone who wants to participate by simply listening to do so.

 

5) Connect Diverse Perspectives
The opportunity to move between tables, meet new people, actively contribute your thinking, and link the essence of your discoveries to ever-widening circles of thought is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Café. As participants carry key ideas or themes to new tables, they exchange perspectives, greatly enriching the possibility for surprising new insights.

 

6) Listen together for Patterns and Insights
Listening is a gift we give to one another. The quality of our listening is perhaps the most important factor determining the success of a Café. Through practicing shared listening and paying attention to themes, patterns and insights, we begin to sense a connection to the larger whole. Encourage people to listen for what is not being spoken along with what is being shared.

 

7) Share Collective Discoveries
Conversations held at one table reflect a pattern of wholeness that connects with the conversations at the other tables. The last phase of the Café, often called the “harvest”, involves making this pattern of wholeness visible to everyone in a large group conversation. Invite a few minutes of silent reflection on the patterns, themes and deeper questions experienced in the small group conversations and call them out to share with the larger group. Make sure you have a way to capture the harvest – working with a graphic recorder is recommended. For a more in-depth look at the World Café design principles, see “http://www.theworldcafe.com/services-programs/wiser-together/[1].

 

Implementation process:

The starting point of a worldcafe is about forming a core group within a community that has sufficient interest and time to participate regularly in a process of defining the need, inviting more members, preparing for the public event, hosting at the tables and then – spreading the insights moving into action plans. The group can be constantly expanded. Once such a leading core group has been established within the community, further activities, experts and interested parties can be integrated. The community can use the process of worldcafe for more meaningful conversations. 

 

Outcomes:

The World Café at Berlin consortium

As part of the opening consortium of DEMO all partners met for a worldcafe with a common purpose – to initiate a 3-year process of teaching and co-learning of immigration in Israel. In a circumstance where most participants didn’t know each other, it enabled an inclusive space and meaningful conversations for a common purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature:

Agger-Gupta, N., & Harris, B. (forthcoming). Dialogic change and the practice of inclusive leadership. In A. Boitano, & H. E. Schockman (Eds.). Breaking the zero-sum game: Transforming societies through inclusive leadership. Silver Spring, MD, USA: International Leadership Association.

 

Inman, J., & Thompson, T. A. (2013). Using Dialogue Then Deliberation to Transform a Warring Leadership Team. In: OD Practitioner (45/1), 35-40.

 

Steier, F., Brown, J., & Mesquita da Silva, F. (2015). The World Cafe in Action Research Settings. Chapter 20: The world cafe in action research settings. In: H. Bradbury (Ed.). The SAGE handbook of action research (3rd Ed.). London, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Quigley-McBride, A., More, K. R., & More, C. (2019). Explicit Attitudes Towards Race: The Impact of Active Learning in Teaching Diversity. Online available at: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=cirtl_reports (14.06.20)

Shulman, J. H., & Mesa-Bains, A. (Eds.). (2018). Diversity in the classroom: A casebook for teachers and teacher educators. London, New York: Routledge.

Useful Links:

 

Name of the Workshop: Worldcafe

Facilitator of the Workshop:  Tomer Ben Hamou

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  • [1] BROWN, J., & ISAACS, D. (2005). The World Café: Shaping our futures through conversations that matter. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Disclaimer: "This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."

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