I’ve just returned from London after our first planning meeting for the World Café Europe event in Bilbao next May, and I wanted to post some reflections from my experience in Dresden while they are still fresh in my mind…
There is a great power in local processes done in a dialogue form.
Here the whole concept of democracy is brought forward. The process to
let people talk about what matters to them in a context of social and
political environments as a means for preparation of, for instance, the
election of representatives in local parliaments or equivalent. In fact
the democratic process needs support from approaches like the (world)
café dialogues. In a society as center-oriented as ours, the dialogue
is one of the few ways in which we can keep the sense of individual
participation in democracy healthy and alive. It is through such
conversations that it continues.
Amazing what you can do in half a day. There is a power of deep
conversations, with people that are willing to open to inner realms in
their hearts, that will in some cases, heal wounds that are half a
century old. In the Frauen Kirche there were people who found peace
with great injustice done to them many, many years ago.
There is a power of graphics in the context of the deep dialogues.
But they have to be designed in such a way as to be integral to the
process. It is a very efficient harvesting method when done as a part
of the overall design. The images give an extra dimension but must be
given a place where participants can reflect on them, not just happen
to watch them by chance. Here is a potential worth more exploration.
Working as a graphic facilitator gives one a special view on the
topics covered in the session. Not better or worse but just different.
You think in images and that generates and opens channels of creativity
and innovation. In this conference these were both major themes, but
are often just an assumed quality in the dialogues.
The images can be used as a mean to deepen the processes, like the breathing exercises and the meditations we did.
The design as a whole was very powerful in leading people into new
dimensions in their understanding. Different people went into different
arenas and that was both good and expected. In contrast to normal
conferences where the participants are often left to themselves in
their psychological process, here it was done very thoughtfully as part
of the design and execution. To that can be added the personal need to
talk to someone about the process one enters. Several people
spontaneously found other participants that made a great difference to
them. My reflection is then that in conversations people enter those
inner realms that create a psychological and spiritual need for support
that is sometimes not given as a part of a conference design, but the
need is still there.
The “working metaphor” of breathing was more important than I first
understood it to be. In practice, it was the container of the whole and
gave meaning to what we did. People accepted doing “strange” things
like breathing exercises and meditations because it was part of an
explicit design. Perhaps that could have been explained even more
clearly in the beginning, but I think the people got it intuitively
after a while.
If one takes this into a deeper level, the metaphor is the container
of the energy AND the rhythm, in the form of the wavelength of the
energy on the collective level. The collective intelligence or rather
feeling on the archetypal level has to be aligned to create the
conditions under which people dare, can and will go the levels beyond
change and make real “quantum" movements to a place of a new being,
Here is a metaphor again used to understand the issue of alignment.
When two pipes create sounding and are too near each other it can
create distortion in both. The interference appears before the real
sound of the individual pipe has had the opportunity to form itself and
find its true representation. It is the same with people. The
individuals must claim their space first to be able to be true to
themselves. Then they can align into the collective rhythm to be able
to produce a tone that can create aligned sounds in the collective
energy chorus. When this happens there is an alignment on a
intellectual and emotional or feeling level. But it is also an
alignment on a physical level. The vibrations of the individual can
take place on the deepest possible level.
To be able to let that happen in the planning process of the
conference, it needs time and conscious efforts as well as openness in
the team. It then happens on the level of collective unconsciousness.
Two things that are obvious in all conferences or meetings like this
are 1) a clear structure and 2) leadership. It is crucial that the
participants feel the security that there is a meaning to what is
happening and that there is someone holding the baton so that they can
put their mind and energy to their own responsibilities.
The harvesting in a conference of this form is perhaps one of the
things that needs the most thinking through. Harvesting is done on many
levels. Individually, in the groups we belong to when we go back home,
and in the whole conference, on an intellectual level, a feeling level,
a conscious and on an unconscious level. All this has to be taken into
account when designing the harvesting process for a conference like
Dresden. This could have been extended a bit more, even if many people
went away with very important findings for themselves. I think we will
learn more about this in the future.
The points above show how important it is that people on the
planning team have a deep understanding of café processes and group
dynamics in interaction as well as an ability to pace the progress in a
rhythm that is in accordance with the group. All these are absolutely
vital if one wants to come to the deeper levels of conversation where
people not only understand, but also change themselves.