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Learning and Knowledge Exchange

World Café

Dynamic iteration on key discussion questions

The World Cafe is a simple yet sophisticated method for holding meaningful conversations around important questions in large group meetings. An excellent tool to encourage participant interaction, the World Cafe can foster deeper engagement with complex or challenging issues.

During advance planning, for each World Cafe session, an overall topic is set; within that topic, 3 - 5 key questions are formulated for discussion; and each question is assigned to a specific table host (an expert or someone with strong interest in the question).

At the event, 3 - 5 tables (one per question) are set up in café style to create a relaxed, informal ambience). Participants divide and choose (or are assigned to) a table to start the process. The host provides a brief introduction, and then participants discuss the question.

When time is up, the participants rotate to the next table, while the host stays behind to introduce the question once more and summarize the preceding discussion for a new set of participants. The new participants then add their insights to the question, refining or modifying the contributions of the previous group. This step is repeated until participants have had the opportunity to discuss up to three different questions/issues. A concluding plenary wraps up the discussion.

By dividing a large group into smaller subgroups, conversations can be made more focused, relaxed and participatory, with greater opportunity for all participants to speak and contribute equally -- thereby encouraging authentic sharing of experiences and knowledge. Rotation of groups from one table to the next adds value to the discussion, by allowing a group to build on the previous group's thoughts and ideas about a particular issue.

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Facilitator
  • A host and a rapporteur per table
  • 12 - 30 participants
  • 3 - 5 tables (ideally round) and sufficient chairs for all participants
  • One flipchart per table, plus marker pens
  • Optional: Flipchart paper to cover the tables (in addition to the standing flipchart); Post-it
  • notes or VIPP cards; marker pens (multiple colours) for participants
  • Bell or alarm clock for timekeeping
  • 75 - 90 minutes (including concluding plenary)

Download the full module on the World Café (PDF), including when and why to use, how to apply, tips for success, variations, and references. 


 

 

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