World Café Discussion Method

Drawing on seven integrated design principles, the World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large-group dialogue.

World Café can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs. Specifics of context, numbers, purpose, location, and other circumstances are factored into each event’s unique invitation, design, and question choice, but the following five components comprise the basic model:

  1. Setting: Create a “special” environment, most often modeled after a café (i.e., small round tables covered with a checkered or white linen tablecloth, butcher block paper, colored pens, a vase of flowers, and optional “talking stick” item). There should be four chairs at each table (optimally)—and no more than five.
  2. Welcome and Introduction: The host begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context, sharing café etiquette, and putting participants at ease.
  3. Small Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more 20-minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. At the end of the 20 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.
  4. Questions: Each round is prefaced with a question specially crafted for the specific context and desired purpose of the World Café. The same questions can be used for more than one round, or they can be built on one another to focus or guide the conversation.
  5. Harvest: After the small groups, individuals are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results are reflected visually in a variety of ways, most often using graphic recording in the front of the room.

The basic process is simple, but complexities and nuances of context, numbers, question crafting, and purpose may require consultation of additional resources. World Café provides many such resources for new hosts, including a free hosting tool kit, an online community of practice, and World Café Signature Learning Programs, at http://www.theworldcafe.com.

(Adapted from http://www.theworldcafe.com/key-concepts-resources/world-cafe-method/)

 

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