World Cafe is a protocol to discuss a ‘Question that Matters’.
This is what it says it is – a key question that matters to participants.
The Basic Format or Protocol
- Groups sit at round tables, where all participants have a felt-tipped pen
- One person, who has been briefed, hosts and facilitates the conversation and stays at that table throughout
- Each group discusses and attempts to answer the ‘Question that Matters’ posed by the host – they come up with ideas
- In the first round, each group has a blank paper tablecloth or flip-chart paper in front of them They engage with the question and make notes or jottings or diagrams on the tablecloth that record key issues that emerge in the discussion. It can be either the speaker who writes down their own point, another table member who does so, or both – the important thing is those good ideas find their way onto the tablecloth. An alternative is to have a scribe as well as a facilitator.
- Tables rotate after a set amount of time (15 or 20 minutes)
- The host stays at the table. He/she welcomes the new group, repeats the ‘Question that Matters’ and shares the essence of the previous conversation, the insights that have started to emerge — where the previous group got to. That might include the beginnings of some categorisation of issues or lines drawn between points. (No more than 3- 5 minutes.)
- The new discussion then builds from the previous conversation(s)
- With each new rotation, the room might also be asked to consider a particular aspect of the question:
- Within that question, what about x?
- Who do you think is best placed to do this work and why and how?
- What key recommendations would you make?
Key Protocol Rules
- Keep introductions short
- Everyone should contribute – all voices matter
- Everyone has the right to write on the tablecloth.
Feedback At The End – From The Table Hosts
Avoid ‘This is what was said on this table’. Better is ‘The four key things that I would synthesise from this table…’ or ‘The most original two ideas that emerged on this table were…’
This group feedback can be publicly recorded, in writing or graphically.