Green World Trust
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World Cafe

The World Cafe

World Cafe website

We first experienced the World Cafe at a "Be The Change" conference. Here was an important tool, simple, versatile and creative, and appealing to people right across the planet as well as right across social strata. Chapter Twelve of their superb book "The World Cafe" is entitled "The Call of Our Times: Creating a Culture of Dialogue".  It starts by quoting Institute for the Future:-

"Conversation is at the heart of the new enquiry.  It is perhaps the core human capacity for dealing with the tremendous challenges we face.  To engage in great civilization we need to ask questions that matter.  We cannot afford to spend our time on issues that can't hold our attention, that don't touch our hearts.  The culture of conversation is a different culture, one that could make a difference in the future of our world".

I'm using some material from the book and I'd like to quote more!  We're all looking for "win-win" scenarios, because we all have valid contributions, and we know that cooperation produces far more for everyone, both in satisfaction and in material gain, than does competition without cooperation.


World Cafe website

The World Cafe invites participants to respond to key questions in small and friendly groups at tables, changing tables so as to increase "cross-pollination" of ideas. "It creates dynamic networks of conversation that can catalyze an organization's or community's own collective intelligence around its most important questions".

It works best with something like 20 to 200 participants, meeting occasionally. This simple but highly-regarded format could help us develop a wide support network, for mutual support for small local groups, to back up the online Forum, and to develop a deeper sense of identity. 

"Serendipity" led to the discovery of the seven principles that, taken together, work so well.  These principles are comparable to the "Ten Constants" which form the basis for Wisdom Circles.  None of the principles is new, yet together they seem to amplify the experience and raise the potential for problem-solving to a new level, a new paradigm.  Chapter Ten gives the "Principles for Hosting Conversations That Matter"...


The seven principles

World Cafe website

Set the Context: Clarify the purpose and broad parameters within which the dialogue will unfold.

Create Hospitable Space: Assure the welcosming environment and psychological safety that nurtures personal comfort and mutual respect.

Explore Questions that Matter: Focus collective attention on powerful questions that attract collaborative engagement.

Encourage Everyone's Contribution: Enliven the relationship between the "me" and the "we" by inviting full participation and mutual giving.

Cross-Pollinate and Connect Diverse Perspectives: Use the living system dynamics of emergence through intentionally increasing the diversity of perspectives and density of connections while retaining a common focus on core questions.

Listen Together for Patterns, Insights, and Deeper Questions: Focus shared attention in ways that nurture coherence of thought without losing individual contribution.

Harvest and Share Collective Discoveries: Make collective knowledge and insight visible and actionable.



"Questions For All Seasons"

  Questions for Focusing Collective Attention   Questions for Connecting Ideas and Finding Deeper Insight   Questions That Create Forward Movement


What question, if answered, could make the greatest difference to the future of the situation we're exploring here?

What's important to you about this situation, and why do you care?

What draws you/us to this inquiry?

What's our intention here? What's the deeper purpose—the "big why"—that is worthy of our best effort?

What opportunities can we see in this situation?

What do we know so far/still need to learn about this situation?

What are the dilemmas/opportunities in this situation?

What assumptions do we need to test or challenge in thinking about this situation?

What would someone who had a very different set of beliefs than we do say about this situation?


What's taking shape here? What are we hearing underneath the variety of opinions being expressed? What is in the center of our listening?

What's emerging that is new for you? What new connections are you making?

What have you heard that had real meaning for you? What surprised you? What puzzled or challenged you? What question would you like to ask now?

What is missing from the picture so far? What are we not seeing? Where do we need more clarity?

What has been your major learning or insight so far?

What's the next level of thinking we need to address?

If there was one thing that hasn't yet been said but is needed in order to reach a deeper level of understanding/clarity, what would that be?


What would it take to create change on this issue?

What could happen that would enable you/us to feel fully engaged and energized in this situation?

What's possible here and who cares about it?

What needs our immediate attention going forward?

If our success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?

How can we support each other in taking the next steps? What unique contribution can we each make?

What challenges might come our way, and how might we meet them?

What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out in a way that created new possibilities for the future of
[our situation . . . ]?

What seed might we plant together today that could make the most difference to the future of
[our situation . . . ]?



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