World/Knowledge Café

World/Knowledge Café

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Term2.png World/Knowledge Café
A creative, group process to forge collaborative dialogue, share knowledge and generate possibilities for action in groups of any size.

The environment is set up in a café style. Every table is decked with a paper cloth, marker pens and some refreshments. Small groups of people sit around the tables and are invited to conduct a series of conversations on one or two significant topics defined by the organizer(s). The paper cloth acts as a canvas, or note pad, which everyone is encouraged to use to track their ideas by either drawing, writing, or creating mind maps. The conversations are usually given a time limit, when reached, all, except the table host, change tables to converse with a new mix of people. Prior to the beginning of the next round of conversations the ideas of the previous group, mapped on the tablecloths, are presented, facilitating the basis for new discussions. Once all rounds of conversation are complete, a discussion is initiated to transmit feedback, sharing the ideas and insights from all the groups. From this collective activity patterns emerge, knowledge is gleaned and possibilities for action realized. [1]

See also: Round Robin

Toolkit.png Organizing a World Café

Step by Step

  • Prepare café style tables, deck with paper tablecloths, marker pens and some refreshments.
  • Invite small groups of people to sit around the tables. The intimacy of a small group is crucial for the conversations, therefore each table should not exceed 6 people.
  • Elect table hosts who will remain there for the duration of the event.
  • Set a time limited for each round of conversation. The total number of rounds should be defined by the total number of participants.
  • Define your question(s) or topic(s) for conversation.
  • Encourage everyone, table host and participants, to write and draw, on the tablecloth with the marker pens provided, keeping track of their themes and ideas.
  • After each round of conversation is complete (according to the time frame), invite all the participants, except your table hosts, to leave the table they are siting at and move to another, ensuring a remix of people at each table.
  • Ask your table hosts to welcome their new guests and introduce them to the themes and ideas discussed in the previous round. The new guests are then encouraged to link their conversations to the previous themes and ideas. As people move around the different table conversations begin to link and connect.
  • After all the rounds of conversation have been made, initiate a period of discussion with the whole group, sharing all the ideas and insights mapped on the tablecloths. In this context patterns can be identified, collective knowledge can grow and possibilities of action can emerge.[2]

Facilitator's Role

  • Clarify the context. The World café should focus on a topic that is important not only for the organization but also for the participants. Before the session clarify what are the requirements and expectations of the exercise. The choice of discussion topic is a very important step of the process and worth dedicating some time to.
  • Create hospitable space. Tables should be distributed within a large room ensuring space between them. Try to create a real café atmosphere paying particular attention to ambiance and aesthetics.
  • Explore questions that matter. The questions to be discussed should be compelling and energizing, so that they generate meaningful dialogue. Choose topics carefully.
  • Connect diverse perspectives. All invited participants/guests should be encouraged to talk and share what has been discussed in the previous rounds at the various tables, so that all conversations will be connected. At the beginning of each round invite your table hosts to summarize all the themes and ideas that have already been discussed at their table.
  • Listen together and notice patterns. Everyone should be encouraged to have an open attitude and listen to what others have to say. At the end of the session get your table hosts to feed back to the group the key points of their table themes and ideas, and display all the tablecloth drawings on the wall of the room, in an exhibition style, so that everyone can visually identify similarities and differences.[3]

Possible Variations

This methodology does not have to be strictly followed. It can be adapted according to the aim of the session and its outcomes.

  • One variation, which might be suited to a reform process or the evaluation of an action plan, requires each table to be seen as a step of the process. Thus there should be as many tables as the total number of steps of the process. All participants should independently move from table to table and be invited to give personal insights on all the steps. The outcome would be feedback to, and revisions of the process.
  • In some cases it could be useful to collect the results from the World Café on a predetermined template. This would lead the discussion to issues that are particularly important for the stakeholder, and generate results ready to use.

Job Aid

Pdf.png World Cafe

MATERIAL.png Additional Materials
File Content
Pdf.png Cafetogo A quick reference guide for putting conversations to work…

© 2008 The World Café.

File Content
Pdf.png World Café Method A quick guide to the world Café Method

Link icon.png Web Resources
Below you have a list of selected web-sites where you can find additional information about Knowledge café.
Link Content
World Café Online Community The World Café Online Community Space: A great place to ask for ideas and advice.
The Art of Powerful Questions This article outlines how to gather insights by articulating questions that encourage reflection, openness and creativity.
A World Café Hosting Guide This resource provides guidance on the key aspects to keep in mind when planning and implementing a world café, including specific advice for table hosts.
World Café This video outlines the core processes and principles of the world café, focussing especially on the importance of conversations.


  1. (31 October 2008), (31 October 2008)
  2. (31 October 2008), (31 October 2008), (31 October 2008)
  3. (31 October 2008)