Method descripton and history
The World Café is a global movement that aims to support meaningful conversations around the world in corporate, government and civic society. It allows big or small groups of people to hold conversations that matter and move forward through dialogue.
Because conversations are so natural and instinctive that it is easy to underestimate the power of conversation. The World Café method helps to develop a network of conversations that are always intimate but become gradually interconnected.
The World Café requires a setting of tables and chairs just like in any other café. 4 to 5 people should sit at each table. The facilitators should set conversation rounds (at least three) and each round should have a specific topic or question to be debated and should last approximately 20 minutes. In each table there is a “tablecloth” paper where participants are encouraged to write, doodle and document the key points of their
After the first round, the facilitator invites participants to move to other tables freely, except for one person, who should stay at the table as a “table host” to welcome the new participants and summarise the previous conversation before starting a new round. The next rounds follow the same pattern and always a new person is asked to stay in the table as a table host while others move individually to any other table. Participants transport with them the insights from previous conversations and, in this way, cross-pollinate ideas and thoughts from conversation to conversation. After the last round, it is important to give space to each participant to collect his/her own conclusions from the conversations, to identify patterns and insights. Allow enough time for these ideas to be shared and collected in a whole-group conversation. Find a suitable way to document these so that everyone has access to the ideas and to allow for possibilities of action to be discussed.
A few principles to bear in mind during a World Café are:
- Create an inviting space: To engage participants in meaningful conversations it is important that the space creates a sense of safety and closeness that facilitates thinking, talking and deep listening.
- Promote the participation of all: Everyone’s contribution matters, invite everyone to be active during the Café, even if in some cases only actively listening.
- Have powerful questions: Attractive, stimulating questions that are relevant for your participants will spark interesting conversations. You can gradually deepen your questions, round by round, or explore different perspectives on a given subject.
- Harvest and document: On the last stage of the exercise, allow for participants to really explore insights and patterns. Make sure these are documented somehow, so that the knowledge co-created is shared and endures as a basis for further work and, most importantly, inspires further action.
Find more about this method in:
When you might use it: When you want to host a dialogue in a group, ensuring space for everyone’s participation.
Time Required: 1 – 2h
How many people involved: minimum 12, no maximum.
Target: you can use this technique with any age group.
Where: This method requires a large space with room for several tables.
Materials Required: Tables, chairs, large papers and writing material for each table.
The methodological description is based on the text produced by Anita Silva. Developing Youth Work Innovation. E-handbook. Project Future Labs. Erasmus+, KA2, 2019. Publication of Humak University of Applied Sciences, page 30.