Archive for transformation

Introduction to Magic in the Middle – Part Four

By Finn Voldtofte, 2005

Transformative Power
To be in a field with magic in the middle transforms those that make up the field. In principle two things are transformed: my ability to be myself, and my ability to be completely present in a meeting with other people. It is always possible to become better at being myself, and it is always possible to become better at meeting with others. Maybe the two are prerequisites for each other.

The transformation takes shape as a gradual degeneration of whatever keeps me from being myself completely, and whatever keeps me from being completely present in a meeting. What that might be for the individual, and how it is gradually degenerated, dissolved and overcome, I do not know – I only claim that it happens.

The power to transform may reach further than to the people that make up the field, if we place the ability to think together for a cause, and something wise results from it. To be able to engage the magic in the middle of people in an organization is a means to transform that organization.

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This is the fourth of six weekly posts taken from an Introduction to Magic in the Middle written by the late Finn Voldtofte in March of 2005 (click the following links to go directly to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, or Part 6).

Finn was one of the original co-founders of the World Café. He worked tirelessly with Juanita Brown to distill and articulate the World Café Design Principles that underlie all World Café practice. Finn was an amazing human being who inspired and touched many, many people on a profound level. His articulation of the “Magic in the Middle” is still one of the most evocative descriptions of what makes World Café “work” and we are honored to publish his words here in this crucial time, when they ring as truly & eloquently as ever


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 on this post.

A Hospitable Space

From World Café steward Donald Proffit, about what the World Café has made possible for him and why he is contributing to the Harvest Fund Drive:

I first met Juanita and David in 2004 at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall, California on Tomales Bay. Rolling December storms coming across the Pacific triggered a number of power outages, leaving our group in the dark. Hurricane lamps were placed around the room and candles on small tables. In this setting surrounded by "intimate strangers," I was introduced to the World Cafe, which prior to this moment I had thought was a radio show originating on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. Juanita welcomed us, in a very true sense, "out of the darkness." And Finn was there and Tom and Meg and Peter and so many more…

This one experience changed how I would work with others from then on. A principal at a large New Jersey public high school, I returned with a gift for my community. Faculty meetings shifted to cafe conversations on what students needed to be successful; diverse groups of students gathered to consider ethics and the school's core values. It was transforming, magical.

The World Cafe Community Foundation has provided me with the generosity of tools and skills to transform a school community. It's time to pay it forward.


Nurturing Transformative Conversations

by Ada Luz Gonzalez

Hosting a Café is following a passion and a calling
with a heart full of joy, light, and gratitude.
It is taking people on unpredictable paths of discovery –
moving forward, walking together in collaboration –
until thoughts are ready to spread their wings and fly. . . .

It is exploring and discovering new ways to grow;
it is tending, nurturing, and sharing in relationship,
creating together ongoing conversations
that move like the rhythm of the waves,
bringing change and new meanings in their wake.

It is building a supportive structure that encourages
transformation, expansion, and new possibilities.
It is looking at the context that surrounds us
to consider what discourses are reflected.

It is listening with care to what is said,
always looking for ways to expand the conversation,
to pause, to reflect, to question, to listen, to engage.

You should focus on the strengths that give the courage
to climb higher, to look deeper, to walk farther . . .
gently teasing, bringing humor, walking lighter,
and in dreaming, acting rightly.

Collaboration between equals is the goal,
respecting needs, agendas, values, choices, timing . . .
never as an “expert” never truly “knowing,”
always curious, always ready for surprises.

Nurturing conversations uses all of me,
my full humanity. . . .
And in living true to self, in being real,
I become a clean vessel, for great wisdom
to flow through, illuminating others.

Ada Luz Gonzalez is a nurturer of transformative conversations facilitating change through dialogue and collaboration. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has extensive training in systems thinking and different forms or dialogue. She is also a licensed psychotherapist. For more than 20 years she has worked in Latin America and USA with individuals, educational institutions, and organizations, helping leaders lead change through transformative conversations. More information about her and her work at

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