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ProAction Café

Main Takeaways
Reading Time: 3 minutes ProAction Café is a facilitation for action-oriented, creative, and inspirational conversations. The participants are invited to share their questions (around projects, or seed ideas) and get input from others. ProAction Café moves from questions to actions by providing space for creativity and getting deeper input (deeper questions, knowledge, experience) from others.

Description of ProAction Café

ProAction Café is a facilitation format I use frequently. ProAction Café is facilitation for action-oriented, creative, and inspirational conversations. The participants are invited to bring in their "call for help" — projects, ideas, questions — or whatever they feel called by and need help to manifest in the world, and they get input from others.

Pro Action Café combines both the concepts of World Café and Open Space Technology. From World Café is the usage of tables, from Open Space is the idea of self-organised agenda building and session hosting incorporated.

After building the agenda, the issues to be dealt are sticked to the tables. Count the number of participants, divide by four or five — this gives you the numbers of tables and the number of issues to be dealt with in the evening (e.g. 40 participants, you can have 10 issues/tables maximum).

Then the conversation runs in 3 round  (20-30min). For all rounds, the one who brought the issue remains at the table. All others on the table move to new, different tables. The host first briefs the new participants joining the table briefly (focus on essence not to take up too much time).
Each round is guided by a few generic questions to help deepen and focus the conversations.

  • Round 1: "What is the quest behind the question/project?" — The first version of the question that someone asks might not be the final question).
  • Round 2: "What is missing?" — E.g what is not asked yet, what are perspectives or options not considered yet?
  • Round 3: "What am I learning about myself?" — "What am I learning about my project?" — "What next steps will I take?" — "What help do I still need?" — Consolidate your learnings into action: What next steps will I take?
    The outcome of this round is that the host, but also the participants takes an action away from that round for themselves.

Depending on time available, this 3rd round can be divided into 2 steps:

  1. Some minutes for the topic owner to reflect on these 3 questions and harvest key insights
    with the help of others
  2. The rest of the time is reflection time for all participants on what they learned during this process. This is intended to be more a process harvest than a content harvest, but also to become conscious that you learn in conversations, even if you didn’t hold an announced topic.


ITU Study Groups - World Café - Arrangements


Procedure of Pro Action Café

  1. Preparing the environment/venue:  1 table for every 4-5 participants.
  2. Check-In: everyone sits silently in a big circle, the facilitator ensures that people "land" (i.e. enjoys the silence and thinks about what their own question would be) and connect with others and the space.
  3. Calling for Help: individual participants stand up and present a question for which they need help. The "caller" selects a table and invites other to share the question. If needed bring more table in.
  4. Three rounds of conversation:
    • Round 1: What is the quest behind the question? Try to go deeper than the story provided by the table host. The invitation for the guests on the table is not to give advice, but to help the host of the table to gain new insights.
    • Round 2: What is missing? Once the quest has been redefined, what makes the picture more complete? Broaden the picture. What areas were not covered?
    • Round 3: What next steps will I take? What help do I need? What did I learn?


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Rules of ProAction Café

  • Welcome and Check-in circle
  • Announcing the topics
  • Explaining the process
  • Three rounds of conversation
  • Closing circle

When to use of ProAction Café

  • Need to call up the collective intelligence of a group.
  • Identify what's "behind" an issue.
  • Find proper actions to implement solutions fast.

Facilitator Role

  • Guides through the process.
  • Facilitates the check-in
  • Facilitates the closing procedure: assists participants in finding proper actions.

Further Reading


Other facilitation techniques I use

: Nenásilná Komunikace, ProAction CaféITU Pictures, via, .