World Café is a method to use to facilitate open and intimate discussions and
link ideas with a larger group to create collective intelligence. In addition to
speaking and listening, participants are encouraged to doodle, draw, and write
down their thoughts so that when people change tables, they can see what
previous participants have expressed.
World Café’s are used to share experiences, stories or results and can be
useful for problem solving and planning activities.
When to use it?
To stimulate discussion and idea creation from a
wide range of participants; create collective intelligence or ownership over
issues and solutions.
How to do it?
Seat four-five people at tables or conversation clusters
Set up progressive rounds of conversations of approximately 20-30 minutes
Encourage everyone to write, doodle and draw key ideas on their table cloths
or note ideas on large index cards / placemats in the centre of the group.
After the first discussion, as one individual to remain at the table as the
host while others move to other tables (not necessarily together). These table
hosts will welcome new guests to the table, briefly share the main ideas from
the previous discussion and ask participants to continue the conversation,
either with new ideas or by adding on to ideas already brought out in previous
At the end of the second round, people may return to their original tables
to synthesize their discussions or continue to travel to new tables. So long as
someone from the second discussion stays at the table, the table host from the
first discussion may move on at this point.
After all the discussion rounds are complete, initiate a period of sharing
discovers and insights across the whole group in town meeting-style report
While World Café can be used with a
number of different audiences, including large plenary discussions, the tool may
be best used with participants that are susceptible to open and honest
discussion and those that are willing to have conversations.
World Café’s are done over an extended period of time broken
into three or more rounds of discussion (each about 20-30 minutes in length);
facilitators should plan for at least 2.5 hours to conduct a World Café
(including the reporting back round)
Pros and Cons
- Engaging conversational process that allows for different mediums to convey ideas (speech, drawing, written)
- Can collect multitude of ideas in a relatively short amount of time
- Success can be dependent on who is present and the degree to which they participate
- Conversations at tables can be dominated by strong personalities, leaving some opinions unheard
Ensure each table has a table cloth that can be
written on or large sheets of paper that all individuals at the table can access
and use at the same time. Deciphering what is written or drawn at each table can
sometimes be difficult – facilitated guidance may be needed to aid table hosts.