The World Cafe is a flexible format for hosting large group dialogue and can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs. The following five components comprise the basic model:
1) Setting: Create a “special” environment, most often modeled on a café with tables seating up to 5 people.
2) Welcome and Introduction: The host begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context.
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, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the “table host” for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round. Previous discussion points may be captured on table cloths to share with the next round of participants.
4) Questions: each round is prefaced with a question specially crafted. 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.
5) Harvest: After the small groups (and/or in between rounds, as needed), participants are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results can be reflected visually in a variety of ways.
The information gathered should be used to inform decision making processes.
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.
- Creative process for developing new ideas;
- Informal and inclusive;
- Has the potential to be cheap and easy to organise.
- Requires a clear and relevant set of questions;
- Need to ensure that action points and/or implementation structures are followed through otherwise the whole experience will not bring about change;
- Can be difficult to maintain momentum afterwards.
- Can create energy;
- People feel they can have a say.
- Cannot be used to make direct decisions;
- In itself, it doesn’t deliver follow-up to people who have taken part and want more;
- Tangible outcomes.
Level of Involvement: Engaging