World Cafe, a Process for Meaningful Conversations


“It’s never enough just to tell people about some new insight. Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring knowledge into people’s heads, you need to help them grind a new set of eyeglasses so they can see the world in a new way.” ˜John Seeley Brown

World Cafe is a non-profit organization, as well as a process, based around having meaningful conversations. Almost every area of life is strongly influenced and motivated by conversations, from personal relationships, to business relationships, to political relationships.

Conversations are at the core of how we share and explore ideas of what is possible, and as we have more meaningful collaborative conversations we can co-create more positive changes.

The World Cafe Process can be used to have large group conversations even though it can be adapted to suit any number of people, purpose, or location.

Here are the 5 basic components to the process:

1. Setting – Create an environment (usually like a cafe with round tables, flower vase, pens, paper).

2. Welcome and Introduction – Make everyone feel welcome by explaining the World Cafe Process, and setting up the context for the conversations ahead.

3. Small Group Rounds – 3 or more 20 minute rounds of conversation; At the end of each round every person moves to a new table.

4. Questions – Each round focuses on a specific question for a specific purpose with every question building on the previous one.

5. Harvest – Results from the small group conversations are shared with the larger group.


There are also 7 design principles to keep in mind that are the basis of the World Cafe process:

1. Set the Context – What is the purpose for having this conversation?

2. Create Hospitable Space – Provide a comfortable, inviting and safe environment.

3. Explore Questions that Matter – Based on real-life issues or concerns that matter to the group.

4. Encourage Everyone’s Contribution – People really do want to make a difference, not just passively participate. Inspire everyone to share their perspectives.

5. Connect Diverse Perspectives
- As people move to other tables they exchange key themes with others expanding the “circles of thought” making surprising insights possible.

6. Listen together for Patterns and Insights – Paying attention to emerging themes, and listening for what is NOT being shared.

7. Share Collective Discoveries – Small group themes and patterns are shared to make “this pattern of wholeness visible” to everyone in a large group conversation”.

You think you might want to host a World Cafe? They offer free hosting guides in 10 different languages. The hosting guides go into more detail on everything from how to set up the space, to how to apply the design principles.

Also Check out World Cafe’s online community to learn from other practitioners and have some meaningful conversations.

To learn more visit the World Cafe.


Firefly Gathering 2014


From the Firefly Manifesto:

” We hope that you drink deeply of the skills offered here. We hope that you may look into the forest, and see the gifts that the plants are always offering you, that you might learn to communicate with your fellow humans in a way that brings you together, that you might see the world as a lover, not as a commodity and sewer. We hope too that these skills might awaken within you an ancient way of living that beats deeply within every human heart, a way of giving and receiving gifts that is joyful and symbiotic, that is as natural and as real as the breath circulating between us.”

Firefly Gathering is an event that happens over 4 days in nature where participants camp out and take a variety of eco-homesteading, permaculture and primitive skills classes as well as enjoy entertainment, basic infrastructure, and camping on-site. The 2014 Firefly Gathering will be June 12-15 at Bell’s Cove, about 25 minutes north of Asheville in Barnardsville, NC.

This year will be the 7th annual gathering sharing skills and connection in nature. 

Last year there were over “200 classes taught by over 90 masterful instructors over the 4-day main event”.

There are classes for almost everything awesome you’ve ever thought you wanted to learn about, or didn’t know you wanted to know like:

how to tie knots, keep rabbits, assemble a bamboo geodesic dome,

learn Jiu Jutsu for self defense, make a sling shot, make a fire, open fire cooking,

knife sharpening, scouting skills, plant walks,

herbal medicine, fracture care, wilderness survival,

how to make soap out of goat milk, horsemanship,

permaculture, beekeeping, gardening

cheese making, paper making, flute making, shoe making, drawing, drumming,

spinning wool into yarn, sewing, weaving, spoon carving, basket weaving

yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and many more.

There also are activities and classes for children, and free child care for children 0-7 years old.

Firefly Gathering tries to make it affordable for everyone to attend so they offer a sliding scale providing low and flexible pricing. Some day passes are as affordable as $50 for adults. Not sure how many of those classes one could take in 4 days but it sounds fun to find out.

80-95% of the classes do not require any materials fees, but keep in mind that a few classes do have a small additional material fee.

Food is not included though some will be available for purchase and there will also be a small kitchen set-up provided since fires are not allowed at individual campsites.

Get all the details:



Transition – the Silent Revolution


“The realization that there was a whole movement out there with the same objectives and ideas that we had was a heart-warming and encouraging experience.”

Rob Hopkins began the Transition movement in 2006 in Transition Towns Totnes. There are currently transition initiatives all over the world, with 149 official ones in the US alone. Hopkins says that ordinary people can take action to make their communities more sustainable, even if it seems small; he calls it “the power of just doing stuff”.

I just read an article on Rob Hopkins’s blog about a village in Hungary that was already working on sustainable initiatives before they began using the Transition model. In 2007 the local government founded the Hungarian Climate-friendly Associationin Hosszúhetény, a village in the south of Hungary of about 3,400 people.

At the same time various projects were started like a local marketplace with weekly market days from local producers and a few years later in 2012 they began a Local Exchange Trading System (LETS). They also have a yearly seed swap, as well as other events to promote sustainability like movie screenings, workshops about gardening, and talks about climate.

In late 2013 a group from the village participated in a Transition training weekend where they learned how to communicate better with local government, as well as how to reach more people, and raise awareness about food self-sufficiency.

In the next few years, along with Transition Wekerle, they plan to expand and strengthen the Transition movement throughout Hungary by teaching and learning new skills with other Transition communities.

Hosszúhetény is a great example of how groups that are already organizing can use the Transition model as a powerful “how-to” guide to keep people inspired, involved and taking action towards making their communities more sustainable. The Transition Network assists groups in transition and supports the Transition movement to reach more people.

Each Transition community has the catalytic potential to inspire other communities with their ideas and projects, but like other grassroots movements Transition has been gaining momentum slowly over the years.

Due to the immediate dangers posed by climate change a report published by AEIDL urges the Transition approach be expanded beyond its grassroots origins by using lobbying and advocacy to make Transition a part of mainstream policy and thinking.

What do you think, should Transition stay at a grassroots level, or is it time for Transition to go mainstream?

Read the full report: Local Communities Leading the Way to a Low-Carbon Society


A Win in Hawaii for “Capitalism-hating Environmental Utopionists”


The title of this post is meant to give an idea of the tension that anti-GMO legislation is causing between conventional farmers using biotechnology (like GMO crops) and farmers that want a more sustainable future for Hawaii’s agricultural production.

In November 2013 the Kauai County Council voted to pass Bill 2491 overriding Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of the bill. Bill 2491 requires biotech companies that use restricted use pesticides, to disclose what they are spraying, where and how much. The law also requires farmers to report which genetically altered crops they are growing. It also sets up “buffer zones” separating schools, homes, parks, and hospitals from fields that are sprayed with pesticides.

The bill was pushed forward thanks to the efforts of local residents that protested and testified in front of the council for hours due to their concern with biotech companies like Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow and BASF damaging the island’s environment and the people’s health.

Biotech companies had previously threatened the small county of Kauai with a lawsuit if the county passed the bill, but councilman Gary Hooser, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that if the biotech companies sued it would cause them a “public relations fiasco”.

The Center for Food Safety, a leader in the anti-GMO movement, promised to represent the county pro bono if it is sued over Bill 2491.


A similar bill was also to be introduced in the Maui County Council.

Then in December Mayor Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113 into law, prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the Big Island and banning genetically altered crops (except for papaya). This was not a popular bill; actually most of the Big Islands farmers that rely on GMO crops are angry about this bill passing.

The Mayor wrote that passing the bill shows the Big Island’s position: ” instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”

Opponents of the bill argued that since 70% of all food in America contains GMO, and Hawaii imports 85% of it’s food, the bill might make it harder for Hawaii’s small conventional farmers to compete.

The forums and the comment sections on many of the articles having to do with GMOs on the islands show a lot of animosity between those that believe GMOs are safe, and those that do not.

Non-organic farmers that are used to growing monocultures that deplete soil, and that are vulnerable to diseases and pests feel lost without GMOs and pesticides. They believe in the science supporting GMOs safety and are more concerned with their bottom line, and supporting their families. They call supporters of Bill 113 “capitalism-hating environmental utopionists“.

Mayor Kenoi reassured that there will be training available in more sustainable agricultural methods, but people against the bill complain that this would be at the expense of taxpayers.

Change is not easy, and it will always upset a group of people that don’t want to change, that are dependent on the old system. As we move to new ways of living and working we need to be compassionate for those that have a harder time moving forward. They need support and encouragement and to know that they will not be left behind or forsaken.

The Mayor of Kauai Bernard Carvalho, was wrong when he said “We are not placed in these positions to be a hero or pave the way for other communities”. We are always in a position to lead by example, and though it has been a rocky start the islands are doing just that, paving the way for other communities.

It is my prayer that conventional famers and organic farmers can call a truce on the islands and work together to enjoy a good livelihood in a sustainable way.

To read more:

                   Kauai’s GMO and Pesticide Bill Is Set to Become Law After Veto Override

                   Big Island Mayor Signs Biotech, GMO Ban Into Law

Want everyone else to buy into environmentalism? Never say “Earth”

Communication is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to marketing and having an impact on people’s awareness on an issue. Maybe environmental and sustainability movements do need to simplify their message to help it become more memorable for people. “We have to make the environment and climate be about (people) and their lives and the economy and justice and all the things that people do care about. And in fact that’s what it’s about, because if we don’t solve climate change, there is going to be a lot of suffering, by average people.”


For over three decades, David Fenton has played an unusual role in the environmental movement: marketing it. The company he founded, Fenton Communications, has worked with everyone from Nelson Mandela to It recently managed an anti-fracking campaign for Yoko Ono (fracking, it promised, would ruin New York’s groundwater, and therefore its bagels and pizza).

David FentonDavid Fenton.

To many environmentalists, what Fenton does — with all the celebrity chefs and celebrities, period — is … a little bit simplistic. To his opponents, he’s the Great Satan. If you find an article about him online, it’s probably a hit piece.

“People working in the nonprofit world sometimes have trouble adopting a marketing mindset,” Fenton Communications wrote in a 2009 report.  “But in the end, the goal is for people to ‘buy’ our ideas — ideas for a better world.”

Fenton recently talked with me over the phone…

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Mindfulness & the Police


Police work is dangerous, stressful, full of adrenalin rushes, anxiety and negativity. Officers talk about becoming increasingly more pessimistic because they constantly deal with people at their worst. And honestly, most people do not like police and the police know it. This creates an “us vs. them” mentality that coupled with bad training policies (think “shoot first” in Albuquerque) is a perfect recipe for police violence.

With so many horrific articles of police violently beating or killing people, I am glad to have found this article about the Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training being offered to the Hillsboro police department. Since last year about a third of the officers in the Hillsboro police department have taken the 9-week course.

The course was created and by Hillsboro Lt. Richard Goerling, Brant Rogers, a certified MBSR instructor and Michael Christopher, a psychology professor. Brand teaches the 2-hour class, which involves stretching and meditation at his Yoga Studio, once a week for the 9 weeks.

Christopher said, “preliminary research shows the training has had positive effects on officers”.

Some old school officers like Hillsboro Sgt. Bruce Kelley says that at first the classes were strange for him, but once he got used to the classes he says his restless leg calmed down, he sleeps calmly without nervous twitching, and enjoys silence during car rides, which he could never do before.

SWAT Sniper Officer Stephen Slade who had to fire his duty weapon twice in less than a year, has found relief through the mindfulness training. At first he was so angry and tense that he could not properly relax in class because he felt unsafe lying down unarmed. He says that police have to deal with negativity on a daily basis but the class has taught him to pause and breath as he scans his feelings.

Hillsboro Police Sgt. Deborah Case who works in crisis intervention and negotiations says that anger and stress on the job can sometimes make cops defensive and they can even take an “us vs. them” mentality with the community they serve. To help her stay in the now she often closes her door for 20 minutes during lunch to meditate.

City Manager Michael Brown, who has taken the class, is supportive of the class even though he realizes it’s not for everyone. The budget for the classes next year is $30,000, which will cover 4 courses. Both Rogers and Christopher are applying for grants to increase the amounts of courses they can provide. In the future courses will extend beyond Hillsboro police, to all regional police officers, firefighters, medics and dispatchers.

The Seattle Seahawks and the military have also carried out similar courses, but the Hillsboro Police’s Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training is “believed to be the nation’s first on-the-job mindfulness training program specifically tailored to law enforcement”.

I hope this innovative course, helping police officers become more resilient through mindfulness, encourages other police departments to follow suit. More research needs to be done, but I am confident that mindfulness training can contribute to lessening police violence as more officers do their jobs grounded in the present, with more focus and clarity. It can also lead to healthier, happier and more effective police.

Please forward to any officers you may know, or to your local police department.

If you know of any other on-the-job mindfulness training please share in the comments.

Read more: Mindfulness in policing: The cost of building resiliency in Hillsboro cops

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store…

When these small acts of kindness compound they make a huge difference, especially because it encourages others to pay that kindness forward like you say. Lovely post.

Kindness Blog

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store –

by Andrea of the ‘True Stories of a Midwest Yankee‘ Blog

till receipt

Dear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.

You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of…

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