Dialogue, moderation of large groups, collective intelligence, collective action, networking
The World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. This method is designed to start, in a relaxed setting reminiscent of a coffee-house, a creative process spread over several sessions that promotes an exchange of knowledge and ideas among those taking part, and thus leads to new insights.
Over time, a World Café etiquette has developed. It contains a set of simple, basic guidelines
for the Café conversations. In summary, they are:
Setting: Create a "special" environment, most often modelled after a café, i.e. small round tables covered with a checkered tablecloth, butcher block paper, colored pens, and optional "talking stick" item.
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.
Process: Usually the method involves three consecutive rounds lasting 20 to 30 minutes each, in which four to six persons sitting round a table in a relaxed atmosphere discuss a particular issue in terms of predetermined 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.
Discussions in such small groups are efficient, and the results are documented. After round 1 the participants move on to other tables, except for a host / hostess, who stays at his or her table and summarizes the key ideas from the previous round for the benefit of the new arrivals, while those who have left the table also spread these ideas. All those taking part thus exchange ideas in an extremely dynamic way; every single person can contribute knowledge and experience, suggestions crop up and creative new ideas appear – all in a very short time.
After several rounds the most important results are gathered at each table and presented to the entire group; finally the results are talked over in a plenary session.
The basic process is simple and simple to learn, but complexities and nuances of context, numbers, question crafting and purpose can make it optimal to bring in an experienced host to help.
2 hours or 1 day to 1 week