The World Cafe’ Method
The World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large groups in small group dialogues. Specifics of context, purpose, and location will affect each event’s unique design, but the following five components comprise the basic model:
1) Setting: Create a “special” environment, most often modeled after a café, i.e. several small round tables with optimally four to five chairs at each table.
2) Welcome and Introduction: The host begins with an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context, and putting participants at ease.
3) Small Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more twenty minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. At the end of the twenty minutes, group members move to a new table.
4) Questions: Each round is prefaced with a question specially crafted for the desired purpose of the World Café.
5) Harvest: After the small groups, individuals are invited to share insights with the large group. Participants are supported to process insights when they are represented visually (e.g. through Graphic Recording).
Resources: There are several resources available for World Cafe hosts, including a free World Cafe Hosting Toolkit, and an online Community. The basic World Café process is simple to learn, but when needed can be supported by an experienced host through World Cafe Services.
The World Café Principles
The following seven World Café design principles form the basis of the pattern embodied in the World Café process.
1) Set the CONTEXT
Pay attention to the purpose you are bringing people together and choose the most important elements to realize your goals.
2) Create Hospitable SPACE
When people feel free to be themselves, they do their most creative thinking, speaking, and listening.
3) Explore QUESTIONS that Matter
Knowledge emerges in response to compelling questions.
4) Encourage Everyone’s CONTRIBUTIONS
The expression of diverse ideas and perspectives are invited, while also providing space to simply listen.
5) Connect Diverse PERSPECTIVES
This is an opportunity to move between tables, meet new people, and link the essence of discoveries to ever-widening circles of thoughts and surprising new insights.
6) LISTEN together for Insights
Through practicing shared listening and paying attention to themes, patterns and insights, we begin to sense a connection to the larger picture.
7) Share Collective DISCOVERIES
Conversations held at one table reflect a pattern of wholeness that connects with the conversations at the other tables. The last phase of the Café, involves making this pattern visible in a large group conversation.
For a more in-depth look at the World Café design principles, see the World Café book.