Facilitation Tool Under The Spotlight: World Café method
What is the World Café method?
The World Café method is a facilitation tool that enables interactions among a large group of people. The tool gets its name from the atmosphere it tries to create, with a set up of small tables and conversations among fewer groups of persons.
What are the five components of the method?
1) Room set up: Small tables with chairs that can accomodate 2-5 persons (depending on the size of the group). The tables can have paper and colored pens.
2) Welcome and Introduction: The facilitator begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context, and putting participants at ease.
3) Small-Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more twenty-minute rounds of conversation for small groups of four (five maximum) people seated around a table. At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the “table host” for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round.
4) Questions: each round is prefaced with a question specially crafted for the specific context and desired purpose of the World Café. The same questions can be used for more than one round, or they may build upon each other to focus the conversation or guide its direction.
5) Harvest: After the small groups (and/or in between rounds, as needed), individuals are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results are reflected visually in a variety of ways, most often using graphic recording in the front of the room.
Image reproduced from https://urbact.eu/toolbox-home/world-cafe
Can the tool be used online?
The tool can be used during virtual meetings to organise an online collaborative exercise.
You first organise an online meeting and split the participants into separate sessions (using the ZOOM Breakout rooms functionality, for example) and assign each session to a facilitator. Allow participants to discuss a question during around 20 minutes and then bring all participants to the plenary session. You can repeat the process as many times as necessary.
In parallel, you can prepare a virtual collaborative whiteboard (Miro, Mural, Jamboard, Google doc...) to allow participants to take notes during each round of discussion. It allows you follow all the sessions live and to give feedbacks to the participants, back in the plenary session. You can also use this virtual whiteboard to gather and summarise the outcomes of the World Café discussions in an document and share it with participants.
When Can the Tool Be Used?
Anytime there is a large group and you need all participants to get a chance to discuss a topic with different persons in the (virtual) room.
Are there any drawbacks or special considerations to using this tool?
Personally, I have seen where the host/facilitator who stays seated at the each table should be trained/briefed to be able to consolidate the information from all the different rounds of 'travellers'. The more rounds, the more information there will be to consolidate.
For this reason, it is handy to only have as much rounds as necessary and already have a reporting template (e.g. on a flipchart) to capture the dicussions from each round. It is also good to have the question for discussion written and displayed on the table. This is a visual reminder of the topic being discussed.
The World Cafe - https://theworldcafe.com/key-concepts-resources/world-cafe-method/