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Archive for Collective Wisdom

Becoming Wiser Together

The most profound gift that I’ve received from the World Café is seeing this “accidental discovery” spread from 24 people in our living room to supporting a global dialogue movement that has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on six continents as they engage in courageous conversations and wise action around the most critical issues of our time.

I feel honored and blessed that the World Café has enabled me to meet people who care about our common future from all corners of the earth. Experiencing their incredible love, skill and commitment gives me hope that we can face these challenging times in ways that retain our common humanity and show that we CAN become wiser together even as we work across the boundaries that so often divide us.


World Cafe is “Stepping In” on a new level – increasing our capacity to engage most effectively with the challenging issues of our times. Here’s an overview of what we’re envisioning and some of the priorities we’ve identified to start. Please join us and contribute what you can to support this important work.

This blog post is one response to an open invitation to our global community – to step up & express what the gift of the World Cafe means to YOU. We welcome your posts, as well as your comments and shares.

Conversations among wise Elders

Richard Durning shares about his experiences in hosting “Boomer Cafes”:

“About ten years ago, my wife Lina – an experienced World Cafe practitioner – was about to turn 60.  She, as with many of our circle of family and friends, was frequently in conversation about what this big 6-0 (and beyond) means. These upcoming “golden years” promise to be much different than those of our parents. Our life expectancy is much longer. “How do I spend this bonus time?” “What will our community (ies) look like – certainly not a gated community. And, most of us do not play golf.”
“These conversations beg for a Cafe,” Lina declared.  “We’ll call it a ‘Boomer Cafe’”.

Her invitation was met with a terrific response. We hosted three Boomer Cafe gatherings with over 45 participants. Our questions ranged from post-retirement: “If retirement is not calling you, what are your priorities for your next phase of life?” to our well-being: “How do we take care of ourselves and prepare for inevitable changes in our lives?”and to our future community: “How do we create a community that supports our well-being?”. These questions generated lively exchanges. One participant insisted that she did not want to be “around old people all the time.”

I was fortunate to host a table and witness the elegant simplicity of World Cafe conversations. Within minutes my small groups were in the space of shared inquiry, stories, playfulness and sudden insights. One individual’s comment stood out for me. “Where is ritual?” In the Western world (United States) there is no place for ritual that allows for the celebration, reflection, and acknowledgment of our entering “the third stage.” We can, and should, learn from other cultures that honor their wise elders.

At the end of the third Boomer Cafe, I commented to a fellow host, that I often marvel at the scope of World Cafe – corporations, organizations, governments, and faith communities. Now add another application: Conversations among wise elders.”

Richard Durning

Chicago, IL USA


World Cafe is “Stepping In” on a new level – increasing our capacity to engage most effectively with the challenging issues of our times. Here’s an overview of what we’re envisioning and some of the priorities we’ve identified to start. Please join us and contribute what you can to support this important work.

This blog post is one response to an open invitation to our global community – to step up & express what the gift of the World Cafe means to YOU. We welcome your posts, as well as your comments and shares.

Activating Collective Wisdom


(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.

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