A World Café is a great way of fostering interaction and dialogue with both large and small groups. It is particularly effective in surfacing the collective wisdom of large groups of diverse people. The café format is very flexible and adapts to many different purposes – information sharing, relationship building, deep reflection, exploration and action planning.
In the World Café we assume that:
- The knowledge and wisdom we need is present and accessible.
- Collective insight evolves from honouring unique contributions, connecting ideas, listening into the middle, noticing deeper themes and questions.
- The intelligence emerges as the system connects to itself in diverse and creative ways.
Drawing on seven integrated design principles, the World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue.
World Café can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs. Specifics of context, numbers, purpose, location, and other circumstances are factored into each event’s unique invitation, design, and question choice, but the following five components comprise the basic model:
1. Setting: Create a “special” environment, most often modelled after a café, i.e. small round tables covered with a checkered tablecloth, butcher block or flip chart paper, colored markers, a vase of flowers, and optional “talking stick” item. There should be four chairs at each table.
2. Welcome and Introduction: The host begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context, sharing the Cafe Etiquette, and putting participants at ease.
3. Small Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more twenty minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the “table host” for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round.
4. Questions: Each round is prefaced with a question designed for the specific context and desired purpose of the session. The same questions can be used for more than one round, or they can be built upon each other to focus the conversation or guide its direction.
5. Harvest: After the small groups (and/or in between rounds, as desired) individuals are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results are reflected visually in a variety of ways, most often using graphic recorders in the front of the room.
There are many resources available for new World Cafe hosts, including free hosting guides, an online community of practice, and World Cafe Signature Learning Programs. The revised World Cafe To Go guide can also be found here.
Page contents adapted from the World Cafe website