THE WORLD CAFE

"A wakening & engaging collective intelligence through conversations that matter."

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THE CREATION OF THE WORLD CAFE

The World Café emerged during a two-day meeting in 1995 of a group called the Intellectual Capital Pioneers. Their meeting was innovative, intellectual, and collaborative, which led them to ask the question, “What happened here that supported such great conversation and breakthrough thinking?” As a result, the World Café emerged creating seven separate environments for various individuals to gather and collaborate ideas while following a set of organized rules referred to as “Café etiquette”.

Timeline of Events Leading to the Creation of the World Cafe

  • Pre-1995: Dialogues and ideas shared.
  • 1995: Evolution of ideas & experimentation stage. The founders decided that no sole person should own the café, rather it is an offering or invitation to its members. The idea centered around “conversation as a code business process”.
  • 1998: In Europe & the United States, website & materials were developed for the Systems Thinking Conference.
  • 1999: The creators rendered that the “community is the core” and that listening & responding (i.e. conversation) was the “soul” of the World Café which would allow individuals to evolve. They encouraged “organic growth through diverse community contributions”.
  • 2001: The World Café applies for non-profit status. Research shows that the World Café begins to spread through Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The café has begun to “awaken and engage collective intelligence” and is used voluntarily by numerous individuals across the globe.
  • 2002: An online community is formed which encourages individuals to share their own ideas & experiences with one-another.
  • 2003: The World Café receives 501(c) (3) non-profit organization status.
  • 2004: The World Café Book research begins with contributions from World Café members & dialogue.
  • 2005: The café continues to evolve and progress, gaining members creating a global community.
  • 2006-Present: World Café books are being published in numerous languages including Spanish and Turkish with Chinese, Portuguese, and German in the works. The online community continues to evolve, creating Café Asia, Palomilla Latina, S.O.L. Vienna, and European Cluster. “An international community of learning and practice is beginning to form, comprised of people around the world committed to awakening and engaging collective intelligence through conversations about questions that matter. Participants live and work in dozens of countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America.”

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Graphic map of key historical events in World Cafe history, created by Susan Kelly.

Written by Angela Jarbo

References


WORLD CAFE TODAY

What is the World Cafe?
The World Cafe is a conversational process based on research and experience, and it is implemented both virtually and in person. The process was designed as a more natural way to have a conversation with people from different backgrounds. Rather than having an intense and pressure filled conversation in an uncomfortable setting, the World Cafe allows its participants to be at ease in a familiar cafe-like environment. One can host a World Cafe, meaning have a gathering of people to engage in conversations about "questions that matter," by inviting different people to participate and providing a space and refreshments; or one can also host a conversation online via the World Cafe blog. Their website contains links to their calendar of upcoming World Cafes around the world and also links to different conversations on their blog that you can participate in.

To have a successful World Cafe conversation, there are seven principles one should follow:

  • Clarify The Context
  • Create Hospitable Space
  • Explore Questions That Matter
  • Encourage Everyone's Contribution
  • Connect Diverse Perspectives
  • Listen Together and Notice Patterns
  • Share Collective Discoveries

For more details on each principle please click here: Cafe Principles.

Example of World Cafe held in Abu Dhabi:


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vx4m9334.jpg Photos from http://www.admc.hct.ac.ae/emel2005/photos.aspx?World%20Cafe

As you can see, the setup is very comfortable and personal. With five to six people at a table, it allows for an intimate yet open conversation. For the most successful conversations, one person remains stationary at a table to enlighten new guests on existing topics and keep track and share what other members have said. At the end, everyone returns to their starting table to wrap up the initial conversation and express what they have learned.

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Above is an example of some table drawings from a cafe held in Taiwan. Doodling is encouraged to increase conversation and thought flow. It also enhances the relaxed setting.

Opinions on the World Cafe:

Blog writer, Jay Cross, discusses the recent World Cafe held in Dubai and the benefits this conversation technique has brought to countries all over the world- including those to his company Emerging Elearning. He states, "The World Café is not Starbucks. It is a process for fostering conversations that matter. Instead of one-way presentations, a World Café event encourages people to work together. At Emerging Elearning, we aim to draw out the best thinking of both UAE officials and the thought leaders from outside the UAE." He explains how the setting of the World Cafe allowed participants to feel at home when discusses his company's topics and he was able to get the most beneficial answers to better their policies and programs. He described it as a "neutral" space where people can gather with hospitality and different ideas.

Written by Alex Pilon


References


THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD CAFE

A variety of groups from businesses, governments, community leaders and respected scientists around the globe have become aware of the negative challenges life faces without the world café. Among these, environmental degradation, underemployment, homelessness and urban violence can all be associated with the lack of opportunity, which the world café offers. Researchers are seeing dilemmas between relations, which instead of enhancing, seem to weaken the fabric of community life with the response that “important spiritual, ethical, and ecological dimensions of life have been sorely neglected”. But growing worldwide communities have continued to spread with exploring what the modern and future world will hold in regards to leading an “environmentally and political sustainability, and economically equitability."

Let the conversations begin!
“Conversation is the crucible for social intervention”. It is the primary mode through which we think of and embrace our world and its future. The idea is to continue cafés globally by then we can converse on a larger scale which can lead to organizational and societal learning worldwide. Ideally, the world café could “become a process scenario and systemic infrastructure for organizational and societal learning toward positive and nourishing futures”.




Above is Juanita Brown, co-author of The World Care: Creating the Future One Conversation at a Time, discussing the importance and evolution of the conversations held in world cafes.

Get Involved!
There are many ways one can get involved and become a part of the World Cafe community. Hosting or attending cafe's are easy and fun. The World Cafe website provides step by step directions on how to host cafe's and also provides a calendar of cafe's that will take place near for you to attend. If interested go to the website: Ways to Contribute.


Written by Alison Ramsay

References
  • Brown, J., Isaacs, D., & Margulies, N. (1997). The World Cafe: Creating the Future, One Conversation at a Time. Berrett Koehler. Retrieved June 28, 2010
  • (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2010, from http://www.theworldcafe.com/involved.htm