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Glossary

Some of the key words used in World Cafe work, defined:

Appreciative Inquiry
The co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them involving systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.

Bohmian Dialogue
Physicist David Bohm observed that both quantum mechanics and mystical traditions suggest that our beliefs shape our realities, that thought is largely a collective phenomenon made possible only through culture and communication. He postulated that human conversations arise out of and influence a shared pool of cultural and transpersonal meanings in which we live our lives, and this continually evolving process he called dialogue.

Civic Dialogue
Dialogue in which people participate in public discussion about civic issues, policies, or decisions of consequence to their lives, communities, and society.

Co-Creation
Co-creating is the process of creating something collaboratively with the belief that the outcome will be richer and better than from a solo endeavor.

Collaborative Inquiry
A thread of dialogic practice which emphasizes that dialogue contributes to collective thought and learning by encouraging the group to attend collectively, to learn and watch for and experience its own tacit (previously undiscussed) process in action. Once noted and discussed, new ways of thinking can occur.

Collective Intelligence
Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from purposeful engagement amongst individuals in a group environment. It is also the capacity of human communities to evolve towards a higher order complexity, harmony, and action.

Collective intelligence is more of a shared decision process than collective wisdom. Unlike collective wisdom, collective intelligence it is not uniquely human, and has been associated with animal and plant life. Collective intelligence can also be understood as consensus-driven decision making.

Collective Wisdom
Collective wisdom is not necessarily focused on the decision process, but rather is a more amorphous phenomenon which can be characterized by collective learning over time.

Collective wisdom, said to have a more distinctly human quality than collective intelligence, is contained in such early works as The Torah, The Bible, The Koran, the works of Plato, Confucius and Buddha, Bhagavad Gita, and the many myths and legends from all cultures.

Community of Practice
A community of practice is a distributed group of people who share a concern, set of problems, mandate or sense of purpose. As (often) informal groups of experts, communities of practice serve to reconnect individuals with each other in self-organizing, boundary-spanning communities. Communities of practice complement existing structures by promoting collaboration, information exchange, and sharing of best practices across boundaries of time, distance, and organizational hierarchies.

Consultation
A process that facilitates the receipt of feedback and input on an issue. There are two key roles in any consultation: those requesting the input (the host) and those providing the input (the participant). Key elements: 1) It is a process, not an outcome. 2) Consultation impacts on a decision through influence, rather than power. 3) Consultation is about input into decision-making, not joint decision-making or decision-making by referendum.

Convening
Convening is different from facilitation. By definition, facilitation is “the process of making things easy or easier.” Convening is the capacity to bring people together and set the conditions for authentic engagement.

Conversation/Dialogue
An exchange of ideas, stories and experiences, information, and/or view characterized by honesty and a willingness to listen deeply to one another in order to learn from each others’ perspective.

Meaningful conversation is intentional and purposeful, engaging multiple perspectives, including potentially conflicting and unpopular ones, rather than promoting a single point of view. This sort of conversation is more likely to arise in a safe, supportive and focused environment.

Conversational Leadership
Conversational Leadership is the fundamental recognition of conversation as a core meaning-making process in all human systems. Conversational leadership takes root when leaders see their organizations as dynamic webs of conversation and consider conversation as a core process for effecting positive systemic change.

Diversity
The differences of ideas, opinions, histories, and cultures that exist among human beings. Using these differences to solve problems is a vital component of dialogic efforts.

Global Citizenship
The act of contributing to public life and participating in the process of addressing and solving public problems.

Graphic Recording, also called “mapping” and “reflective graphics” (see “visual facilitation”)
Graphic recording involves capturing people’s ideas and expressions—in words, images and color—as they are being spoken in the moment.

Graphic recording can be used as a tool for bridging the verbal and visual thinking and to illuminate how human beings connect, contribute, learn and make meaning together.

Hosting
Hosting is an emerging set of practices for convening group conversations of all sizes. Hosting is a verb, characterized by the warmth and friendliness expressed by the host of a party or personal gathering. In the World Cafe, it is supported by principles that: maximize collective intelligence; welcome and listen to diverse viewpoints; maximize participation and civility; and transform conflict into creative cooperation.

Multi-generational Collaboration
Multi-generational collaboration is the process in which people of different generations work together and bring their unique perspectives, wisdom and gifts to the conversations. Where we used to see these relationships in terms of olders “mentoring” youngers, we foster co-mentorship, where we can use each others’ unique contributions to co-evolve innovative systems and solutions adapted to current and future challenges.

Synchronous and Asynchronous
Both synchronous and asynchronous refer to time as experienced during communications using an online medium. Synchronous communications are those which are happening in “real time” – simultaneous interactions and conversations where people are talking to each other directly, at the same time. Asynchronous conversations, on the other hand, are conversations that happen over time, using a virtual forum or other online tool where participants respond to previously written (or videoed) posts in interactions that can continue indefinitely.

Safe Space
An environment in which everyone feels comfortable in expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.

Social Innovation
Social innovation refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs of all kinds – from working conditions and education to community development and health – and that extend and strengthen civil society.

The term has overlapping meanings. It can be used to refer to social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques. Alternatively it refers to innovations which have a social purpose – like micro-credit or distance learning. The concept can also be related to social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship is not necessarily innovative, but it can be a means of innovation) and it also overlaps with innovation in public policy and governance.

Systems Thinking
The use of various techniques to study systems of many kinds. It includes studying things in a holistic way, rather than purely reductionist techniques. It aims to gain insights into the whole by understanding the linkages, interactions and processes between the elements that comprise the whole “system.”

Visual Facilitation (see “graphic recording”)
While all World Café events benefit from including a graphic recorder in the design process, visual facilitation is a professional skill that combines graphic recording and facilitation, or hosting/convening. The graphic recorder may be the primary facilitator or a co-facilitator/convenor.