What the World Café Makes Possible

From Ben Roberts of weDialogue, on what his engagement with the World Café has made possible for him:

On the occasion of this “Harvest Fund Drive,” I find myself reflecting back on what has been an incredible personal journey in which the Foundation has played a key role. A year and a half ago, I began an inquiry into the power and joy of engaging in “conversations that matter,” in the context of my involvement in the political initiatives of “the Coffee Party.” This led me immediately to The World Café as a process and to the work of the Foundation. There I found an inspiring array of resources and an incredibly responsive, sincere, generous and dedicated community of practice that was eager to support me. Talk about “creating hospitable space!” You can read a series of posts in the StoryNet section of our wonderful Online Community describing my efforts; here are links to part 1, part 2 and part 3).

As I learned more about the magic of large group dialogic processes, my interest quickly morphed from excitement about finding a set of tools to apply to this specific political initiative to a sense that I had discovered new and fertile ground for my life’s work in a much broader context. I became especially taken with the possibility for weaving these processes together with the incredible convening power of the internet. Here, the Foundation’s director of global communications Amy Lenzo proved to be particularly supportive. One of the world’s most experienced hosts of emergent dialogue online, Amy generously volunteered to teach me, connect me with resources and even to co-host many of my earliest efforts in convening virtual conversation.

Last August, I was honored when Amy invited me to join her in creating weDialogue.  We are now building this business together, focused on expanding the quality and reach of online dialogue and providing a new revenue stream for The World Café Community Foundation via an array of online services, including hosting and training. We also launched the Conversations for the 21st Century project in April with an engagement on Community for the 21st Century. Next, in collaboration with other members of The World Café and Art of Hosting communities based in Greece, we co-hosted the 2nd in the series, “What is Moving and Awakening Around the World,” inspired by events in the Eastern Mediterranean. This Conversation for the 21st Century featured “conversation starters” from Greece, Syria and Israel and drew participants from over a dozen countries.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was just a week old at that time, but it seemed clear on that call that the connection to global events was powerful. I therefore began looking for opportunities to host generative dialogue animated by the energy of the budding Occupy movement. That has led quickly to “Occupy Café”, an initiative supported by weDialogue and the Co-Intelligence Institute. This open space for global conversation is designed to give participants in the movement a place to connect with one another and to the wider world. Our virtual doors will open Monday, 10/24 at 11am Eastern for the first of a series of three-hour MaestroConference calls. We're using an open approach to provide anyone who has an idea for a compelling conversation with a platform for convening it.  I look forward to collaborating with members of the World Café Community and others in the "Jardin Central" of transformative social technologies to make this the richest, most generative and hospitable space possible.

It is hard to imagine that I would have found what is fast becoming “my life’s work” if the Foundation did not exist. And it is thrilling to imagine what lies before us as the incredible talents, wisdom and heart of this community find more and more ways to manifest "world as café.” Please consider giving generously to the Foundation in support of this essential mission.

Ben Roberts
Principle, weDialogue

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