(first published in weDialogue, May 2017)
The capacity to activate collective wisdom is at the very heart of the work I do, both in my spiritual practice and in my work with groups through participatory group processes like World Café, Open Space, Circle, etc.. As a host of participatory practice, my understanding of collective wisdom has largely been that of a field of shared awareness that can arise within the group when certain conditions are in place.
While it’s certainly true that Collective Wisdom arises from particular qualities of intention and attention, in practice its presence or absence has always been a bit of a mystery to me. In my experience, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t – even when it appears that pretty much the same conditions are in place.
So you can imagine the enthusiasm of my “yes” when long-time friend and colleague Alan Briskin – one of the pioneers in shaping the language and ideas associated with collective wisdom and a leading practitioner in the field – asked if I wanted to collaborate with him to produce an online program on this subject.
In a recent Stewardship Council meeting welcoming new members Daisuke Yamaguchi (whose company translated the first World Cafe book into Japanese – see the essay he wrote for the World Cafe’s 20th Anniversary) and Sabine Soeder (whose grace and graphic facilitation so beautifully embodies the spirit of World Cafe), we were talking about “ba”, the Japanese concept (developed beautifully by Professor Ikujiro Nonaka) of the generative relational field that supports knowledge creation.
We were talking about it as part of the “hospitable space” we as World Cafe hosts strive to create as the container for World Cafe “magic” – sometimes known as collective wisdom – to emerge.
As “ba” speaks to both physical space and the more subtle realms, truly creating hospitable space for World Cafe means not only caring for the logistics of the World Cafe process, but it also a real understanding of the design principals that give the form its depth and meaning. This deeper look is the focus of the World Cafe Hosting Fundamentals course we offer each year in partnership with Fielding Graduate University, and it is what makes it so valuable to World Cafe hosts whether you are just starting out or have years of experience.
This year’s course starts September 10th. Register now & invite the “ba” of World Cafe into your own practice.