We asked some of
the key stewards of the World Café to talk about why they continue to
invest their time, money and care in this work. Here is what they said:
Ana Cristina Maldonado, Florida:
"World Café came into my life serendipitously, and found in me an instant convert to the World Café gospel of good conversation as a love-force that is capable of changing the world. The Café idea spreads easily from person to person because it speaks some essential truth about the how and why of human connectedness. So, it’s not a surprise to me when someone to whom I mentioned Café in passing writes me and tells me of a fabulous 60 person conversation on military they just up and decided to organize."
Maria de los Angeles Cinta, California and Mexico:
"My experience with the people who make The World Café Foundation is of a continuous expansion—whether it is in the form of ideas, connections to people and resources, good conversations, human accompaniment, or many others. It is a gift to be affiliated to such a rich community. I have never hesitated to make a contribution back to the WC Foundation whether financial or in kind as I believe the gifts we all bring to the community of “cafeistas” go to the right people, the right endeavor, and the right place– I know it by experience."
Sharon Joy Kleitsch, Florida:
"Mentioning World Café is a conversation starter. It never fails to open people’s eyes and imagination. Just talking about the idea is energizing, so they are ripe for the next invitation. These cafés bridge differences and continents, as it seems everyone today is hungry for conversations that are truly engaging and give them something to savor afterwards.
The setting of the cafés creates complex levels of welcome and feelings of safety, so guests are more trusting of what’s next. It gives those who are shy the opportunity to offer their views, so all voices are part of the mix. This, I believe, is one of the secret ingredients to success.
One of the best parts is that World Cafés were actually designed by chance, people doing what they love and hosts being open to innovation. The reality is that they could not have been designed strategically to be more successful, as they have all the qualities that scientifically make a difference in bringing about coherence. This is a model of living systems working.
I am fascinated to experience and watch the emerging fields of cohesiveness. Nothing else quite compares with the energetic feelings of a group that has completed a round of cafés. If we are looking for collective wisdom, this is the place. Since my work is around cultivating collective intelligence, World Cafés are an essential part of the process.
Why do I spend my time, energy and money as part of the World Café network? It’s an investment in our common future. Besides, it’s too much fun to miss."
Chris Chopyak, London:
"Personal and deep satisfaction – creative dissonance – knowing through contribution I am making a difference. These are the reasons that I contribute to the World Café Community. Personal and deep satisfactions are achieved through the learning that occurs with others as we wrestle with tough questions. As we search for those sweet questions that allow other things to be revealed, I personally experience a connection to and with others that is gratifying and tangible. I feel better after the work!
Creative dissonance for me is learning how to be in conversation and not in agreement with others. This is powerful and hard! As media focuses our thinking on fear, unrest and global insecurity, it is courageous to have conversations that are creative and lack harmony. When I allow new perspectives in, my view of the world shifts. The practice of café conversations and the World Café Community move me toward collaboration, common ground and shared understanding and away from isolation, anonymity and fear.
Making a difference – isn’t this what many of us want? To contribute to making the world a better place as we pass through? My work with the World Café and its many faces, users, conversationalists and experimenters provides a generous, expansive and welcoming platform to do so. Ideas are heard and people are empowered to both share and act upon their insights. I have been witness to so many people leaving a café, standing tall, with a smile on their face, laughter in their eyes, and, for that moment, a belief that we can do things differently. Through regular café work I know that I am “doing things” in a way that resonates and inspires others."
Carlos Mota, Mexico
"One of the fundamental paradoxes of our time is to live in an era of wonderful technological instruments of on-line, real time, world wide communication and yet an era of increasing difficulty in reaching agreements to resolve our mundane day to day interactions as well as our most relevant issues as communities and countries. More importantly an era of cold, superficial, utilitarian and transaction-based communications among human beings.
I have found that the World Café can play a very useful role in creating the space and the enabling conditions for warm, meaningful and inspirited communication with other human beings. To me this is the essence of a culture of dialogue that I found urgent to promote and that I put as one of my priorities in life.
This is the reason I want to be a steward of the World Café, devoting time an energy to help it evolve in Latin America and other parts of the world."
Ulrich Soeder, Dresden, Germany.
"Why am I contributing to the World Café Community?
Dynamic and complex life conditions make lifelong learning on the levels of individuals, teams, organizations and societies a number one strategic priority. If we want to create a global civilization, we need as many sources of wisdom and intelligence as possible. And we need to create some form of coherence between the different actors to preserve the world of today and create a bright tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.
A key concept for me is accountability. As humans we have the freedom of choosing our answers to the life conditions we have to deal with. Freedom is closely connected to creativity: We are bringing something new into the world. And, both freedom and creativity are the other side of accountability. Without the freedom to decide where to go next, we do not feel accountable for where we are going and what we are doing. How can we foster accountability in our lives, our teams and organizations?
In that process communication and dialogue are crucial elements. We need a culture of dialogue that interconnects and aligns the different perspectives of religion, culture, politics and economy. World Café is one of the processes that can contribute to such a culture of dialogue. Everyone in a World Café is gifting and receiving his or her own experience and meaning, everyone is contributing and listening. The World Café in itself is a gift economy where the currency is meaning.
In “The way of man”, the philosopher Martin Buber describes a particular path that begins with oneself and honors the individual contribution of everyone, but in the end one should forget oneself and have the world in mind. World Café is a wonder-full process that incorporates this philosophy and puts the beauty of transformation into practice, fostering the meeting of people to create collective meaning and coherent action.
That is why I contribute to the World Café Community and integrate the World Café process in my work as consultant and coach. I am part of World Café Europe where our purpose is to foster dialogue in European Cities. A video documentation of our first European Gathering in Dresden 2007 will be available for download soon."
Laura Peck, California
"The world café community invites my full hearted participation, welcomes me to the table, and engages my desire to encourage and host and be in powerful conversations about possibility. From the first summoning to the Stewards’ Gathering, I have responded with YES! I met Andrea Dyer at the Marconi Center Conference and from the beginning it was was easy to say, “We” will care for the the nascent Bay Area contingent. We were invited to think about the role of regional steward and then to make it real with a convening of 25 hosts/conversationalists from all around the bay and beyond the bridges. Inquiries through the website have generated consulting work with a mountain resort town government looking for a fresh approach to civic engagement and a professional association of meeting planners looking to reach out to their younger members.
Each new opportunity to contribute starts with an invitation to think together about a provocative question. A few of us wondered, “what might conversational leadership be” and hosted over 40 co-inquirers at a café co-sponsored with bay area SOL and held at Saybrook in San Francisco. Others met to explore dialogue across generations and their enthusiasm was so contagious that now we are hosting a multi-generational café in Half Moon Bay.
The practitioners in this network of learners and hosts are generous with ideas, experience, and materials and that, in turn, makes me more committed to “giving it away” — both the methodology and the spirit of the world café.
Last week, I picked up a café-to-go kit at David and Juanita’s house — 5 tables, red-checkered tablecloths, two inch vases, pens, lovingly packed up by Barbara and left outside the garage for me. I hosted 3 cafes in 2 weeks: physicians in Calistoga, museum educators in the Marin Headlands, evaluation consultants serving the social profit sector. I arrive and unpack and every time, the magic happens. The Question is posed, people lean in, listening intently, faces softening, the room buzzing as the collective (re)discovers their own wisdom and sufficiency. Without fail, participants recognize that the café would enhance a conversation they are planning … and that they could host it! I always encourage people to experiment, offering my support and pointing them to the website and the book.
A genuine invitation, a warm welcome, joyful collaboration and generous recognition–this has been my consistent experience and one which I feel en-couraged to provide for/with others."
Sheila Damodaran, Singapore:
"In a world of incessant movement of life, sound and light, perhaps it is a way of helping to connect thoughts that can otherwise remain broken forever. These broken lines typically fuel fears within us
that rifts apart life-forms (humans, plants and animals) potentially losing systemic interconnectedness of most issues over space and time.
They produce unwarranted complexities and broken shared aspirations that we face inevitably in our realities today and come back to sap the scant resources of our world. The scars that man and the environment leave on the earth is obvious; the scars that they and we leave in our hearts less obvious. The ravages of earth are just a mirror of those already in our hearts. The World Cafe in its unique way connects our thoughts (and our hearts) in a way that is at once divergent and convergent allowing all of us over time to "see more of the whole (world)" in safe and yet simple ways. The process could, if we allow it, eventually mend the scars within us that may help bring our minds and hands together in creating systemic healing and creation of life in our world. Seeing that happening is what keeps me going."
Nancy White, Seattle, Washington:
"Why do I contribute my time and energy to the World Cafe Community?
- the people
- the learning
- the value the community offers to the world.
How could you not want to be part of that!!?"
Daisuke Kawaguchi, Japan:
"I truly believe that a conversation from our open heart is the only way to get over conflicts for peace,
create genuine collaboration across boundaries, and make a strong step forward to our desirable future together. And I want to become the one who can hold such a space for conversation that matter to the wholeness as my vocation.
The World Cafe Community for me is one of the places that can enhance my highest future possibilities by connecting those who have the same common ground all over the world. This is why I contribute my time/energy/money to the World Café Community."
Simone Ramounoulou, Brazil:
"Those moments from global to individual changes are very demanding. Our inner understanding is tested on different levels and there is a challenge to find a safe space to express our feelings hopes and values, as well as a place to start working.
In my country, Brazil, the different Cultures and Social needs are an example of these challenges. To create cooperative communities, organizational process, new educational program we are sharing our experiences and offering new possibilities of dialogues through The World Café. The communication flows and the participants feel incredibly joyful.
My commitment now is to bring The World Café under a new perspective of actions, through communities in São Paulo city, talking directly to the leaders and suggesting dialogues for action: groups of people finding a common purpose and collaborating to reach their purpose. There is no money involved in this program for now, just planting the seeds of a new moment; our office has the logistics to help and The World Café is conducting those initiatives. The whole project will be ready for 2008."
Douglas OLoughlin, Singapore:
"Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said the “If you can describe the Tao (the “Way”) in words then it is not the Tao”. Paradoxically, to try and describe TWC is such a challenge, especially ironic because TWC seems to be about talking, using words.
However, as I have learned, The World Café is a Process, a Philosophy, and a Community. Each of these alone would probably be enough for me to want to be a part of this community, but together it is a compelling combination, one filled to the brim with love, wisdom, and inspiration.
Most people I meet love the idea of expanding collective intelligence, and engaging in conversations that matter, but many people do not know how to co-create it. So TWC provides a delicious, nutritious recipe with a variety of ingredients to support others to satisfy their hunger for tasty conversations. And the dessert is a sweet combination of goodies, inspiring and meaningful and often actionable.
Every Café that I design and facilitate provides the environment and process for participants to create significant insights and shifts, so to share this with others is a gift that is passed on with the spirit in which it was received from Juanita and David. For these reasons and more than it is not explainable in words, it is a pleasure and privilege to be a Steward of the Café.
So have I accurately described The World Café?Well, if I follow Lao Tzu’s words of wisdom, then I hope not. But I do hope to have conveyed the spirit of why this work is important and why I enJOY being part of the Community."
Bo Gyllenpalm, Sweden:
"The reason I am devoted to the World Café is because I, by having been connected with it from its very start in 1995, have gained such wonderful friends all over the world and interesting connections but the main reason is that I think the World Café is and can be a method to make a better world. That’s why I have initiated the cooperation with Fielding Graduate University and their Institute for Social Innovation.
The Institute for Social Innovation (ISI) supports the creation of social capital by strengthening the capacity of individuals and organizations to address societal problems. This is exactly what I think TWC can and is doing and as I am on the board of trustees of Fielding I look forward toward this cooperation between TWC and ISI to support three areas of effort: the development of frontiers in research, building leadership for change, and facilitating organizational development."
Samantha Tan, Boston, Massachusetts & Taiwan:
"Contributing to the World Cafe Community allows me to be my best self – doing work that inspires me with people that I connect with almost immediately because of the common values that we share ~ service, love, fun, inspiration, collective energy and wisdom, emergence, possibility and a better world."
Nancy Margulies, Montara, California:
"Watching the faces of people engaged in conversation at a World Café event always gives me hope. Hope that through these explorations we can think together about how to address whatever challenges we face. That’s why I contribute time and tithe to the World Cafe Community Foundation. It’s my way of contributing to what I believe in most: the capacity of human beings to evolve, to learn from each other and focus our collective energies on what matters most. My gift WCCCF is a contribution that can have enormous impact in the world."
Chaiwat Thirapantu, Thailand:
"Why I contribute my time for the World Café community, particularly for my country, Thailand.
First, TWC has some common culture which is embedded in my region, southern Thailand. In my home town, Nakorn si thamarat, people sit every morning at coffee (or tea table) and talking about politics, both national and local politics. We called this conversation, "SaPa Ga Fae", that means "Coffee Assembly", they making jokes about the politicians and very often hot debates in coffee assembly. We have strong tradition of "Folks Democracy" that whoever enters into the table is "equal". You might be the minister or member of parliament or senator or mayor, but in Sa Pa Ga Fae everybody is equal, no rank and file here. Now the Sa Pa Ga Fae has spread to many parts of Thai’s cities.
So, Juanita once said to me she wanted to see a "Populist Dialogue", not the "Elites Dialogue" and this is fertile ground for TWC in Thailand.
Second, I have visited many workshops from AI, Open Space, Future Search.. etc.. I have learned many techniques that I can apply in my work in Thailand. Many techniques that I mentioned need particular processes,which are complicated to be powerful. But TWC is easier to learn and handle and more fun and flexible in inviting participants to be reflective and see deeper patterns. I can adapt TWC in any situation where we have at least 2 hours.
Last, the process of "training" the "host" of TWC is more relaxed, and everybody can easily learn to be a host of the coffee table.
It might be the origin or genesis of how TWC was born in the atmosphere of "hospitality" at Mill Valley so that it embodies the "spirit to be a host" in all people from the day the TWC was born onward. It becomes our DNA. Every time we meet, I feel that I am in my "family" – a big family, a microcosm of the world family. The café spirit is the human spirit that hungers for deep connection. But in the other large scale change methodologies and techniques, I was trained to be an effective "facilitator". I do not feel as much the sense of "my family" in an AI-conference or Open Space meeting. There is something more subtle in TWC, with ‘invisible hands" that embrace all of us whether we meet each other around café tables or in dining rooms."