The World Café is a creativity process method, which facilitates collaborative dialogue and the sharing of knowledge and ideas to create a living network of conversation and action. This method offers a practical way to enhance the human capacity for collaborative thought and generating ideas in an organizational or social design process.
Duration: Medium (about 30-60 minutes)
Group size: 2 - 50 persons
The World Café method was originally developed in the 1990's by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in USA and is currently expanding through the globe. The method takes benefit from the fact that the best ideas are generated in a relaxed and casual atmosphere, such as a coffee break. The World Café is a global movement that supports conversations that matter in corporate, government, and community settings around the world.
In this process a café ambiance is created, in which participants discuss a question or issue in small groups around the café tables. At regular intervals the participants move to a new table. One table host remains and summarises the previous conversation to the new table guests. Thus the proceeding conversations are cross-fertilised with the ideas generated in former conversations with other participants. At the end of the process the main ideas are summarised in a plenary session and follow-up possibilities are discussed.
The World Café method is based on seven simple guiding principles:
Clarify the Context
Create a Hospitable Environment
Explore Questions That Matter
Encourage Everyone's Contribution
Connect Diverse Perspectives
Listen Together for Insights and Deeper Questions
Harvest and Share Collective Discoveries
- Choose café facilitator beforehand.
- Decide on the purpose and focus of the Café conversation (core Topic)
- Create a comfortable environment; similar like in a Café, i.e. small round tables covered with a checkered tablecloth, butcher block paper, colored pens, a vase of flowers, and optional "talking stick" item. There should be four chairs at each table.
- Prepare questions for discussions.
- The moderator gives a warm welcome and begins with introducing the World Café process, setting the context, sharing the Cafe Etiquette, and putting participants at ease.
- Seat four (max. 5) people at small Café-style tables or in conversation clusters.
- Set up progressive (min. 3) rounds of conversation, approximately 15-20 minutes each.
- Engage questions or issues that genuinely matter to your life, work, or community.
- Encourage participants to write, doodle and draw key ideas on their tablecloths (and/ or note key ideas on large index cards or placemats in the center of the table).
- Upon completing the initial round of conversation, you may ask one person to remain at the table as a "table host" for the next round, while the others serve as travelers or "ambassadors of meaning." The travelers carry key ideas, themes and questions into their new conversations, while the table host welcomes the new set of travelers.
- By providing opportunities for people to move in several rounds of conversation, ideas, questions, and themes begin to link and connect. At the end of the second or third round, all of the tables or conversation clusters in the room will be cross-pollinated with insights from prior conversations.
- In the last round of conversation, people can return to their first table to synthesize their discoveries, or they may continue traveling to new tables.
- You may use the same question for one or more rounds of conversation, or you may pose different questions in each round to build on and help deepen the exploration.
- After at least three rounds of conversation, initiate a period of sharing discoveries and insights in a whole group conversation. It is in these town meeting-style conversations that patterns can be identified, collective knowledge grows, and possibilities for action emerge.
Hints from experience
Explain how the logistics of the Café will work, including the role of the Table Host (the person who volunteers to remain at the end of a round of conversation and welcome new people for the next round.
It is very important, to have well-crafted questions that are visible to everyone on an overhead, flip chart or on cards at each table.
If possible, make sure key insights are recorded visually or are gathered and posted.
- Board markers or pencils
- Additional wall (or window) space for posting collective work and/or the work of the tables
- Visualisation for the introduction (powerpoint)
- Flipchart or Whiteboard
Schieffer, A., Isaacs, D., & Gyllenpalm, B. (2004). The World Café: Part One. Ojai, California: World Business Academy. Retrieved 5 August from, http://www.collectivewisdominitiative.org/papers/WorldCafe.pdf
Slocum, N. (2005). The World Café. Steyaert S., Lisoir H., a cura di, Participatory Methods Toolkit. A practitioner's manual. Belgium: King Baudouin Foundation and Flemish Institute for Science and Technology Assessment. Retrieved 6 August 2015 from, http://www.kbs-frb.be/uploadedFiles/KBS-FRB/Files/EN/PUB_1540_Toolkit_13_WorldCafe.pdf
The World Café. (2015). A Quick Reference Guide for Hosting World Café. The World Café Community Foundation. Retrieved 6 August 2015 from, http://www.theworldcafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cafe-To-Go-Revised.pdf
The World Café. (2015). Book Images. Retrieved 6 August 2015 from, http://www.theworldcafe.com/tools-store/hosting-tool-kit/image-bank/book-images