The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter 1st Edition
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--Sharif Abdullah, founder, the Commonway Institute, and author of Creating a World that Works for All
“World Café conversations are one of the best ways I know to truly enhance knowledge sharing and tap into collective intelligence. The few simple principles in this book can lead to conscious conversations with the power to change not only the individuals who participate, but also our collective future.”
--Verna Allee, author of The Knowledge Evolution and The Future of Knowledge
“The wisdom of many voices speaks from these pages! May we take seriously their invitation to call forth what has heart and meaning in our world through conversations that matter.”
--Tom Atlee, founder, The Co-Intelligence Institute, and author of The Tao of Democracy
“The capacity to see the world of the “other” sounds simple, but it is not. Yet it is the core of creating a new human history together. The World Café and this book serve as an inspiration to help make that possible.”
--Lic. Esteban Moctezuma Barragan, Mexico’s former Minister of Social Development
“The prevailing wisdom is that talk is cheap and that it’s a poor, timid substitute for action. This warm and inviting book demonstrates that conversation is action, because it is the wellspring from which relationships and trust are generated and informed decisions grow.”
--Thomas F. Beech, President and CEO, Fetzer Institute
“The challenge of leadership in these times of breathtaking speed and exhausting complexity is to find creative ways to embrace the future, and let go of the past. World Café dialogue provide us the opportunity to do just that.”
--Paul Borawski, Executive Director and Chief Strategic Officer, American Society for Quality
“Understanding the World Café’s fascinating model of a living social system is essential for the understanding of life and leadership in human organizations.”
--Fritjof Capra, author of The Web of Life and The Hidden Connections
“The World Café couldn’t be more timely. It offers inspiration and practical guidance to those who want to convene groups—even very large groups—for conversations that stimulate hope, creativity, and collective commitment.”
--Laura Chasin, founder and Director, Public Conversations Project
“This book and the stories in it offer hope for addressing complex challenges and provide methods for strengthening family and community relationships. It is truly a work of art and a very important contribution.”
--Rita Cleary, co-founder, Visions of a Better World Foundation
“World Café conversations touch the heart of what “human being” or “being human” means. By cherishing and including diverse voices, this book models the very nature of collective knowledge that is the heart of the World Café approach to dialogue.”
--Sara Cobb, Director, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, and former Executive Director, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School
About the Author
David Isaacs is President of Clearing Communications and designs strategic dialogue forums with senior leaders in the U.S. and abroad. David is also a co-originator of the World Café and serves as adjunct faculty with the University of Texas Business School’s Executive MBA Program.
The World Café Community is made up of organizational and community leaders and others who are fostering conversational leadership across the globe.
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The most important aspect of this in our setting was the revolving tables ... meaning that small cliques didn't develop, but even more importantly, it allowed for discussions to be broader than between one small group. If you are looking into ways to set up conversations about important issues in your church and community, this is an excellent resource. It helps your participants (hopefully) look outside of the box and see possibilities instead of looking at ways things have always been done.
I suggest this as an excellent resource for churches going through a self-study in anticipation of seeking a new pastor, of pastors wanting to understand their congregations, and for any community wanting to hear voices that are often silenced through the majority.
"The World Cafe" by Brown & Isaacs is a practical approach to introduce and use the dialogue concepts in business settings to deal with real issues that keep recurring and for which there doesn't seem to be obvious solutions. Cross-pollination of ideas through the "cafe process" builds on small ideas, links them, uncovers affinities and connections, and creates more possibilities to explore and address.
It would be nice to get legislators to use such a process to address the significant issues we face (health care reform, tort reform, etc.) rather than the antiquated win-lose strategies they now employ. Einstein wrote, "The significant problems we face cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking that created them." It's time to employ a more enlighted approach.
The World Cafe approach is a LEAP in that direction!
For those of you who haven't yet experienced a World Café, we can only offer our condolences. It's unlike any other "tool" we've ever seen or used for enabling a group of individuals to become what Juanita likes to call a "collective wisdom." The World Café enables all participants at an event to meet, interact with, and learn from all the other participants. It is as different from a typical conference (with PowerPoint presentations and jumbotron television screens) as an intimate dinner with a lover is from a gathering of the faithful in St. Peter's Square in Rome.
This remarkable book is a rich and compelling conversation in itself about an incredibly important "new" process for generating new ideas, insights, relationships, and deep personal conversations. We are true believers, and even with our past experience with the World Café we found the compilation of personal stories, guidelines, and case examples wonderfully inspirational.
This is truly a remarkable book. I endorse it without reservation. No, let me go further: whether you know it or not, you need to buy this book.
Now, let me take just a few moments to give you a flavor of what this is all about. David Isaacs is fond of saying that conversation is for people what water is for fish: we are surrounded by it, but we hardly recognize how critical it is for life and meaning.
The World Café is an approach to group interaction that helps us remember what conversation really is: "the medium though which all of us together understand and create the realities we live in" (David Atlee, founder of the Co-Intelligence Institute, quoted in the Introduction).
When you participate in a World Café you find yourself seated at a small round table with three other people, who you may or may not know. The table is covered with a large piece of butcher paper, and there is a small vase of fresh flowers in the center. You have access to several crayons or markers, and you are engaging in conversation about something that really matters - typically one or two "Big Questions."
You work together for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and then your Host/Hostess asks three of you to get up and move to three different tables to continue the conversation, while one remains behind to report to three new participants on the meanings behind the scribblings you've left behind on that butcher paper.
It all sounds so simple - yet the total experience is incredibly profound. You discover very quickly that the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. There really is a collective intelligence that is far more powerful than any of our individual insights.
To get back to the book for a final moment, it is written as a compilation of stories and examples of events where the World Café has been used. The book actually has many voices (what could be more appropriate?), and Juanita graciously (but not surprisingly) gives ample credit to the many thoughtful, caring people who have contributed to the process and operational design of the World Café over the years.
And the book is a "how to do it yourself" compendium as well. The core of the book articulates and makes real the seven core design principles of a World Café:
1. Set the Context
2. Create Hospitable Space
3. Explore Questions that Matter
4. Encourage Everyone's Participation
5. Cross-pollinate and Connect Diverse Perspectives
6. Listen Together for Insights, Patterns, and Deeper Questions
7. Harvest and Share Collective Discoveries.
Applied in combination, these basic design principles virtually ensure that you'll have a powerful learning and relationship-enhancing experience. Even if you never read the book, try living by these principles, and I'm willing to bet you'll find yourself having more meaningful conversations than you realized were possible.
And the best part of all this is that it isn't rocket science, a foreign language, or some elite skill that requires years to master. As David Isaacs says over and over again, it's just a matter of remembering (practicing and acting on) what you've known all along.
Top international reviews
If you don't know how to do that, this book is for you. I use the ideas in this book and they work. I just don't use the flowers and candles on the table