The World Cafe Process – Conversations that matter

Is it possible for friars to discuss challenging topics like migration, youth, and care for the environment in an appealing, fraternal, deep, and productive way? Apparently, it is! This is what the friar participants discovered during today’s group discussion which was structured around a unique style of conversation called ‘World Cafe’.

The World Cafe is a structured conversational process for thought sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic at several tables. Individuals switch tables periodically and are then introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a “table host”. Each table conversation lasts for 20 minutes and is conducted in an informal and inclusive fashion. Yesterday afternoon, the friars were given training in the process and so today’s conversations developed very easily.

The table hosts gather the opinions of the friars and write these on a large tablecloth (paper!) and then present this collection of thoughts, comments, and opinions to the next group. The participants in their turn are “ambassadors of ideas’, bringing the product of their previous group conversations to the table. The table host (facilitator) needs to listen carefully in order to see patterns and common threads in the thoughts presented by the different participants.

Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, the OFM Secretary General, was really happy with the results of the first day of the World Café process. “It was so engaging! All the friars could freely express whatever they felt and thought about the various topics. Everyone felt heard and even though communication in the different languages was sometimes a challenge, the listening was excellent.”