The world café is a simple but effective method to encourage exchange of opinions and debate between groups of people. It is inspired by old-style cafés, historically a place of relaxed conversation, where people can freely interact around a table, thus stimulating new ideas and innovative solutions.
The world café method requires people to split up in small groups (usually composed by no more than 5-6 persons). There would be 3 or more tables, usually equipped with pens, pencils, a pad of paper, and other instruments to record what is said. The small groups sit at all tables in turn, for about 20-30 minutes. At each table, they have an issue to debate, and there is a facilitator with the task of introducing the subject, summing up to each group what others said previously and ensuring that everybody has a say. When all groups have been to all tables, they all gather in assembly and the ideas that came up at the different tables are presented and debated.
How to implement it
This method is especially useful when there are large groups of people that need to come up with new ideas and reach decisions. To avoid long assemblies, where topics are debated endlessly and only a few intervene actively, and to stimulate a creative process involving all participants with their skills, the world café is an excellent solution.
- The World Café community is a diverse and ever expanding group of hosts, participants, champions, and friends who use and support the World Café. On their online platform, practitioners and supporters can share their experiences and learn from each other.
- The World Café community has developed a free toolkit for those who want to try the method.