Description of World CaféWorld Café is a facilitation format I use frequently. World Café facilitation is a group interaction method focused on conversations. It got its name because it imitates a café setting where small groups (4 or 5 people) are all conversing together around tables. In this case, a cluster of small groups — anywhere from 10 to 1000 — are in conversation about an issue that matters to them or should be resolved.
It is an ideal way to find out what a community is thinking and feeling about a topic.
Rules of World Café
- The environment is set up like a café, with paper-covered tables supplied with refreshments and pencils.
- Each table gets a certain issue as question written or sticked (index card or post-it) at the paper cover.
- The participants sit to a table and hold a series of conversational rounds lasting from 20 to 45 minutes about the questions assigned to the table.
- Participants are encouraged to write, doodle, and draw notes, insights or key ideas of the conversion on their tablecloths.
- At the end of each round, one person remains at each table as "host", while the other travels to separate tables.
- The table hosts welcome newcomers to their tables and share the essence of that table's conversation so far.
- The table host encourages the newcomers to link and connect ideas coming from their previous table conversations to the table's results and to listen carefully and to build on each other's contributions.
- The newcomers relate their conversational threads to the table's issue. They add new notes or insights of the conversion on the paper cover.
In this way, the threads of the various conversations are woven together and all participants get a sense of what is being discovered and developed between them.
When to use World Café
World Café is used to
- Foster interaction and dialogue with both large and small groups.
- Surface the collective wisdom of large groups of diverse people.
- Information sharing,
- Relationship building,
- Deep reflection exploration.
- Action planning.
- Introduce the participants to the process
- Assign questions to the tables
- Guides participants through the process
- Initiate after several rounds of conversation, a period of sharing discoveries and insights.
In these town meeting-style conversations patterns can be identified, collective knowledge grows, and possibilities for action emerge.