World Cafe, a Process for Meaningful Conversations

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“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.

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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.

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