People have their say in the World Café

The World Café is a workshop method for 15 to 2,000 people. The format, developed by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, two US corporate consultants, is used particularly with heterogeneous groups. It helps in the process of bringing together different views on a given topic and developing strategies collectively.

Festspielhaus Bregenz Bühnenturm Ausschnitt mit Himmel © Dominic Kummer

Procedure

Small groups of four to six people sit at each table and have a discussion that lasts 15 to 30 minutes. After a reshuffle, the round-table discussions continue with different participants. One table host remains behind to fill the newcomers in on the debate so far. The World Café has already been used at Kongresskultur Bregenz events – most recently, for instance, at the Kindheit und Gesellschaft ("childhood and society") symposium in late April. Carmen Feuchtner of the association "Welt der Kinder" appreciates it as a method of "making varied dimensions of knowledge and experience available to a very diverse group of participants". The classic speech is "not eliminated but augmented", she says.

Varied and activating

"It's fairly elaborate but definitely also full of variety and it's a highly activating method for facilitating lively involvement and harvesting a wide range of input," says the managing director of the Vorarlberg tourist board, Christian Schützinger. Schützinger used it at the Vorarlberg 2020 Tourism Strategy workshop and was impressed by the results.

Less inhibiting

"With the 1st Vorarlberg Climate Conference, in autumn 2015, we wanted to create a forum for discussion about the climate using a whole range of formats," remembers Lydia Etzlstorfer of the Vorarlberg renewable energy working group. "We were especially keen on the visitors getting together on an equal footing, interacting and networking. As such it was clear from outset that the World Café format should be a fixed part of the programme along with speeches, workshops, good practice presentations and so on." What she particularly liked was the familiar, conversational setting at a small (café) table: "You quickly feel at home and it's easier for you to join in the conversation than it would be in a large group."

Space for creativity, hands-on approach

There was high praise for the hands-on approach shown by Kongresskultur Bregenz: "The team stand out for their genuine hospitality, supreme professionalism and a readiness to get involved in the thinking and planning process, to create an ambience in which social questions can be dealt with in a way that contributes to a constructive form of coexistence in our society," was Carmen Feuchtner's evaluation. Christian Schützinger decided on the Workshop Theatre for two reasons: "Firstly, because we had lots of space and a very free hand when it came to planning and organisation, and secondly because the technical equipment offers an enormous spectrum of possibilities for creating mood and atmosphere – and we achieved that brilliantly thanks to the professional advice and practical implementation skills of the experts there."

 

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People have their say in the World Café