The World Caf? Method & Metaphor
The following text was submitted to NCDD by The World Caf? Community Foundation. for more information, go to www.theworldcafe.com.
What is the World Caf??
The World Caf? is a living network of conversations around questions that matter. It is an easy-to-use method for fostering collaborative dialogue, particularly in large groups. It is, simultaneously, a provocative metaphor enabling us to notice the often invisible webs of conversation and social learning which lie at the heart of our capacity to share knowledge and shape the future together.
Using the World Caf? as a method empowers leaders and other professionals to intentionally create focused networks of conversation around an organization or community's real work and critical questions. Caf? conversations are designed on the assumption that people already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges. They are based on the natural process by which authentic conversations enable people to think together, create shared meaning, strengthen community and ignite innovation. Given the appropriate context and focus, Caf? dialogues allow members to access their mutual intelligence in the service of desired outcomes.
The process is simple, yet often yields surprising results. In a World Caf? gathering, you join several other people at a Caf?-style table or in a small conversation cluster exploring a question or issue that really matters to your life, work or community. Others are seated at nearby tables or in conversation clusters exploring similar questions at the same time. People are noting down or sketching out key ideas on the Caf?'s paper tablecloths or large cards.
From these intimate conversations, members carry key ideas and insights into new small groups. This cross-pollination of perspectives is one of the hallmarks of the World Caf?. As people and ideas connect together in progressive rounds of conversation, collective knowledge grows and evolves. A sense of the larger whole becomes real. Innovative possibilities for action are made visible.
Under what circumstances is the World Caf? model most successful or fitting?
The Caf? process is almost infinitely malleable and will work with any group of 12 or more. We have successfully conducted Caf?s with 1200 people, so size is not a problem. To date most of the Caf?s we have designed, hosted and convened have been to enable large groups of people to think together about some aspect of their common future. It is a powerful community development tool. The World Caf? process has been used successfully at large conferences, at town meetings, among educators, for designing and implementing organizational strategy, and in numerous other settings. For stories and examples of how and where the Caf? has been applied, please see our website.
We are not aware of people who have used it as a primary means of working with conflict. It is very possible to use the Caf? to explore the roots of a conflict, but it would require careful planning and skillful facilitation to do so.
The World Caf? Community Foundation
The World Caf? is supported by the World Caf? Community Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. We make information about the Caf? process freely available to anyone who inquires. Additionally, the World Caf? Community Foundation is continually exploring new ways to use the World Caf? in service of life-affirming principles.
World Caf? Resources
The World Caf? website (www.theworldcafe.com) includes an overview of the principles, a free downloadable guide to hosting a Caf?, and numerous stories and articles about the Caf?.
Pegasus Communications also offers The World Caf?: A Guide to Hosting Conversations That Matter, which is available for $15.00. There is a direct link on the World Caf? site to this Resource Guide.