The Cafe is built on the assumption that people already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges. Given a context and focus, it is possible to access and use this deeper knowledge about what's important.
Cafe Conversations are a provocative metaphor enabling us to see new ways to make a difference in our lives and work. The power of conversation is often so invisible and natural that we usually overlook it. For example, consider all the learning & action choices that occur as people move from one conversation to another: in a practice group, in a school, with family or friends, with each other, across this nation, and beyond. What if we considered all of these conversations as one big dynamic cafe with each context servings as one table in a larger network of living conversations, which is the core process for sharing our collective knowledge and shaping our future? Becoming aware of the power of collective inquiry we can use it for our mutual benefit.
What is essential about the Cafe method? Here follow a set of guidelines for effective Cafe Conversations.
- Clarify the purpose - share and be clear about the reasons for gathering and for the overall inquiry
- Create a hospitable place - make an hospitable invitation, create a cafe like atmosphere with tables for four, flowers, paper table cloths on which to write, music, pens to write with. A way to share the collective wisdom, with overhead projectors or projected computer screens.
- Explore questions that matter - frame questions that are evocative of aliveness, use these questions as a basis for beginning. The Cafe can explore one question or several questions in more than one round.
- Encourage everyone's contribution - Everyone is encouraged to contribute: verbally, through diagram, by mixing and pairing ideas, and through other creative forms of expression; ideas emerge from the one into the many, enriching the possiblities for new insights.
- Connect diverse perspectives - The opportunity to move between tables, share more than one round of dialogue, speak, write, diagram or express in whatever ways empower, offer everyone an opportunity for voice. Participants move, seeding one dialogue with the results of another.
- Listen for insights and share discoveries - Shared listening and paying attention to patterns, themes and shared insights, enables connection to the larger whole for which the entire group can be present.
Imagine the power of our collective circle if we open Compassion in Action with an hour to an hour and 1/2 of Giraffe World Cafe.