What is The World Café?

The World Café is a flexible, easy-to-use process for fostering collaborative dialogue, sharing collective knowledge, and discovering new opportunities for action.

(The designers observe that nearly everyone recalls that they experienced their most significant conversations around a kitchen or dining room table. There is an easy intimacy when gathering at a small table which most of us immediately recognise.)

In sum, The World Café is a process which enables people to have rounds of creative conversations while sitting café-style at small tables. Paper table cloths (or sheets of flip chart paper taped together!) are used to capture the ideas and issues which emerge from the conversations.

After each round, one member of the group remains at their table to host a new conversation and help to build links between the different strands (- they are free to move to new tables once they have completed this task). The others move on to new tables to join in the conversations which are emerging there. The usual format is three rounds of conversations of about 20 minutes each with the Facilitator calling time, followed by a plenary debrief in which the hosts share the full story which emerged at their tables during the process.

The Principles of The World Café:

  • Clarify the context
  • Create hospitable space
  • Explore questions that matter
  • Connect diverse perspectives
  • Encourage each person’s contribution
  • Listen together for patterns, insights and deeper questions
  • Share collective discoveries

When Café Conversations are particularly useful:

  • To generate input, share knowledge, stimulate innovative thinking, and explore action possibilities around real life issues and questions
  • To engage people – whether they are meeting for the first time, or are in established relationships – in authentic conversation
  • To conduct in-depth exploration of key strategic challenges or opportunities
  • To deepen relationships and mutual ownership of outcomes in an existing group
  • To create meaningful interaction between a speaker and the audience
  • To engage groups larger than 12 in an authentic dialogue process

The Café is less useful when:

  • You are driving towards an already determined solution or answer
  • You want to convey only one-way information
  • You are making detailed implementation plans
  • You have fewer than 12 people (better to use a more traditional dialogue circle or other approach for fostering authentic conversation)

Who developed The World Café?

Juanita Brown and David Isaacs.

How can I learn more?

The World Café by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs