Talk:Experience with Knowledge Cafe format

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups

Maria Nelly Pavisich, 2009/02/06

I am a consultant at the World Bank Group and I would like to know if any of the organizations you are affiliated with are currently using the Knowledge or World Cafe methodology as a participatory knowledge sharing methodology and for what purposes.


Ben Ramalingam, 2009/02/06

It is a fantastic tool for making for focused and productive. Most recently I have used it with a network of Asian disaster response and disaster reduction NGOs as part of their strategic planning processes.

Nancy White, 2009/02/07

Yes, the resource Ben points to is fantastic. There is also an online community for World Cafe practitioners and it is a great place to ask for ideas and advice. There are also World Cafe materials in different languages. I will also add that I am using World Cafe both as a central method and also combined with other things. For example, using a cafe to kick off strategic planning, as a way to start an Appreciative Inquiry process or as a way to "make meaning" of a keynote. It is a very scaleable tool from 8 to hundreds of people. The two bits of the practice that I have found most important are:

1. Think very carefully about the question you use to convene the cafe conversations. Like many interaction methods, the question is at the heart of the interaction. It has to be clear and it has to MATTER to the participants, because World Cafe is about "conversations that matter." If it isn't important, don't do it.

2. Don't let anybody talk you into using large tables and groups over 6 people. Cafes thrive in conversation sizes of 4-6. When you go beyond that, you move back to speech making and less chance for everyone to speak and be heard. So if a facility only has large round or rectangular tables, skip the tables and just huddle up chairs and put the flip chart paper and pens on the floor in the middle. Or if it is culturally acceptable and physically comfortable, people can sit on the floor. But the intimacy of a small group is critical.

James J. Tarrant, 2009/02/07


thanks for this very commonsensical and (evidently) experience driven post. I especially think it is important to emphasize the kind of sharing at different scales. Large scales being pretty much declamatory and not for mutuality while the scale you talk about (5-6) seems more intuitively related to how humans have long interacted at an intensive knowledge sharing/planning/strategizing level. In this era of global connectivity, this scale is good to remember for electronic meetings and discussions.

Roxanna Samii, 2009/02/07

Dear Maria,

Nancy, Ben and others have already provided you with useful tips and resources. From my experience, in a hierarchal organization World Café manages to break the hierarchy by putting colleagues from different ranks around the same table discussing the same issue. Suddenly for 30 minutes or whatever the duration of each visit maybe, everyone becomes peers and no one a 'superior'. It is great way for colleagues to share personal and work-related insights and experience - and that is when the walls crumble. Last but not least, it also gives an opportunity for colleagues to unleash their creativity which is not something that they may necessarily have the space and room to do on a daily basis.

And Nancy is absolutely right; keep the groups small, I would also suggest that you do try to mix your groups so that you do not end up having people who normally work together sitting on the same table. Try to diversify as much as possible. If it is the first time you are doing it, try and brief your table hosts so that they know what is expected from them.

Ben Ramalingam, 2009/02/07

I agreee - we've used it in our leadership development programme and it works a treat - and the website it nice too.

HELIOS, Namibia.

Pascal Bernardon, 2009/02/07

Hi Maria-Nelly,

I participate every month a KNOWLEDGE CAFE organised by Dr Joël Muzard in MONTREAL and worldwide on the web via SKYPE.

This KM Cafe is usually french spoken, but everybody can participate.

If you want to participate the next session in February the 19th for more detail about KM-GC-MONTREAL

Nice to exchange with you at the next session

Vos Connaissances et Votre Savoir-Faire: Un Capital à Valoriser

ABIS Inc. France

M Jahangir, 2009/02/08

Hope we are talking of physical caf set up. can we imagine of some form of using this technique in virtual set up. Any ideas please