Centre for Natural Hazard Research

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World Café

World Cafés create a fluid conversation around questions that matter. A Café Conversation supports and encourages dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes.

We will use a series of questions to stimulate the sharing of ideas about how we can mitigate natural disasters. The questions are based on four topics: 1) Governance, 2) People, 3) Codification, and 4) Knowledge.
We will ask:
  1. How would you improve the existing combination of public and private sector governance of natural hazard disaster mitigation, to significantly increase societal resilience to natural disasters?

    For instance: Should critical infrastructure owners operate a Trusted Information Network, as in Australia? Does devolution of mitigation strategies to the municipal level increase resilience?

  2. Do societal structures engage people in mitigation?

    For instance: Are individuals self motivated to reduce their risk to natural disasters? Are the mechanisms in place to provide opportunities to increase resilience (e.g. insurance, wealth, knowledge)?

  3. Are existing code and standards systems working and can they or new ones be used more effectively?

    For instance: Are mechanisms like the National Building Code strengthening resilience? Is present land-use legislation enough? Are existing codes and standards being effectively applied? Does infrastructure in transportation corridors need better construction guidelines?

  4. Which aspects of our system of generating and using disaster mitigation knowledge can be improved?

    For instance: Do you have the knowledge you need? Do you feel you effectively use what is known, and if not, how could the situation be changed? Are key decision makers connected effectively to mitigation knowledge? If a researcher publishes an article on mitigation is it like a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it make a sound?
An overview of the World Café approach is included here courtesy of Laurie Pearce and a more comprehensive version can be downloaded in pdf format.

Download Overview of World Café

What is the World Café?

World Café Conversations are an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. A Café Conversation is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes.

Café As Metaphor

The World Café is a metaphor. It's a guiding image, a scenario of possibility, and an innovative set of tools and methods for evolving collective intelligence and creative futures.

As a guiding image, the World Café helps us appreciate the importance and connectedness of the informal webs of conversation and social learning through which we:

  • Discover shared meaning
  • Access collective intelligence
  • Bring forth the future
Between individuals and within organizations, we generate meaning as a result of the quality of the conversations in which we participate. In fact, we create our world and its future through a process of connecting with each other, sharing knowledge and know-how, and building relationships--all through the process of collaborative conversation

A Natural Process

We evolve ourselves as individuals and as societies in conversation. The process is so natural to us that we often forget to notice it. Think of all the conversations that go on in an organization as "tables" at the organization's Café. In the course of daily life, people in the organization move from table to table, carrying seed ideas and learnings from one conversation to another. The connections among the ideas shared at these tables inside and outside the organization--and the actions that emerge from this web of conversations--help to build the organization's knowledge base and shape its future.

The World Café is:
  • Our growing collective awareness of the connectedness of these conversations and the importance of the collective learning and knowledge they generate. As our "collective intelligence becomes aware of itself" we become powerful resources for bringing forth the future at increasing levels of scale.
  • A specific conversational process--a kind of Café know-how that enables you to create welcoming environments in which new knowledge, new relationships, and creative insights can emerge, focused on the real life issues in your own organization or community.

World Café Know How

The key to creating a successful World Café conversation is employing the seven guiding principles, which when used in combination foster courageous conversations and collective intelligence.

The World Café process is particularly useful in the following situations:
  • When you want to generate input, share knowledge, stimulate innovative thinking, and explore action possibilities around real life issues and questions
  • To engage people--whether they are meeting for the first time, or are in established relationships--in authentic conversation
  • To conduct in-depth exploration of key strategic challenges or opportunities
  • To deepen relationships and mutual ownership of outcomes in an existing group
  • To create meaningful interaction between a speaker and the audience
  • To engage groups larger than 12 (we've had up to 1200) in an authentic dialogue process
The Café is less useful when:
  • You are driving toward an already determined solution or answer
  • You want to convey only one-way information
  • You are making detailed implementation plans
  • You have fewer than 12 people (better to use a more traditional dialogue circle, council or other approach for fostering authentic conversation)