World Café: An Exercise for Vision Discernment
- Let participants engage in what is happening in a personal way and contribute on any level.
- Uses questions to foster deep thinking and sharing.
- Uses a fun and relational way to gather thoughts, opinions and needs for your congregation’s growth.
What Supplies Will Be Needed?
- Butcher paper
- Masking tape
- Markers, crayons, pens, pencils
- Note taking pad/iPad for facilitator
- Digital Camera to capture the sheets when complete
- One to two facilitators for each question and another person to be time keeper/runner
Setting the Space
The questions should already have been determined by a previous process or by leadership (depending on the situation). The facilitators of the conversation should be leaders in the congregation, but more importantly, if at all possible, they should be leaders on the team seeking the data you will mine from this process. It is a good idea to establish a behavioral covenant (examples available on line, or ask a Congregational Life Consultant for a few) for the day’s activities and get the facilitators familiar with it and how to keep the conversation in right relations. The facilitators should meet prior to the activity and go over roles and responsibilities. You may have more than one facilitator at each question; in this case someone should be designated as scribe and the other the conversation starter/leader. In addition to the main questions, it is suggested to have several ‘sub’ questions ready to spur on the conversation or to dig a bit deeper in to context and meaning. Timing should also be determined pre-event. How long over all do you wish to spend on all questions? How many questions do you have in total? A sample time calculation goes like this- my groups are fairly small 8 people in each, I have 3 hours total to spend on this process and 6 questions; that allows for 25 minutes per question, with about 5 minutes in between each question to move to the next room (and a very quick restroom break). Make sure to figure your timing out well before hand as there are times groups get in to deep conversation and 25 minutes may not be long enough, especially if there are large groups in the activity. If you feel time may be a concern, look at dropping a question that may not get to the heart of what data is needed or increase your time allowed for this process. Never schedule less than 15 minutes per question -that is for a small group (under 5), around 25 minutes if 8-12 in a group and if over 12 in a group at least 30 minutes per question, and give at least 4-5 minutes to change rooms/tables/questions.
Setting the Table
Cover table(s) with butcher paper and secure with tape. Write the question to be asked at that particular table on the paper- big enough so the whole table can read it (I also draw a chalice!). Leave markers, crayons, pens and pencils on the table for the participants to use while discussing the question. Make sure that there is enough space/distance between the tables as to not hear ‘bleed over’ from another tables conversations, ideally each table/question would be in a separate room to cut down on sound/hearing issues, this is especially important if working with ‘sensitive’ questions.
The day of the event, ask facilitators to arrive early and do a quick role play to make sure leaders are feeling confident and up to the task. When participants arrive, section them in to the same number of groups as you have questions. I like to use stickers or something fun to designate the group, but using numbers or letters work just as well! Example: Questions 1-6, group A starts with question 1, group B question 2, Group C question 3 and group D question 4, group E question 5, and group F question 6. Using the same example the time keeper/runner would go to each room at the 20 minute mark and give a cue letting the participants and facilitator know there is 5 minutes left for this question and to start wrapping up the conversation. When time has expired for the current question ring a bell, chime, play music- whatever will alert the groups to change questions/rooms. Group a will leave question 1 and go to 2 and down the line, group F would go to question 1… Repeat this process until all groups have had a chance for discussion of each question.
Making It Work
While in the groups, facilitators are encouraged to comment and ask questions to deepen the conversation, such as “tell me more” and “how do you see that working in this situation?” and “what would it take to make that a reality in our congregation?” or whatever feels right to get to the core of the conversation. Encourage participants to ask clarifying questions of one another as well. Encourage the participants to write down their questions and answers or draw out their answers in picture form on the butcher paper - or just doodle! Many brilliant ideas have been hatched over a doodle session! The first group is usually the only one the facilitator needs to spur on, after that the groups are ready to talk and give feed back. Make sure the facilitators are mindful of the time and do not let it run over after the bell has sounded, this will make the incoming group wait and the out going group late. Please have all facilitators thank the participants from each group for giving of their time and willingness to speak up and contribute to the process- this is a key piece to letting them know they have been heard and that their input is valuable!
If you have the ability to add just five more minutes to the very last question’s session- ask for a ‘report out’ from the participants. This is a simple way to gain feedback in the moment of how the participants felt the activity flowed? What was valuable to them personally? What would they like to see more of? What just didn’t work this time around? Develop the ‘report out’ questions in the preplanning stage and have the scribe ready to take down the impressions given in each group. The information gleaned here can help to inform leadership how to carry out an even better World Café session next time!
Gather the Data
When the session has ended, have all notes and butcher paper (this is where the digital camera comes in handy rather than rolls of paper!) turned in to the point person for collection. Where this info goes after depends on what you are using it for and how quickly this data is needed. It is a good idea to gather all the contributions and put them in some easy to read semblance of order to share with the congregation (no names, just thoughts), this will help those that gave of their time and talent know the process was listened to and valuable. This process can be used in layers to reach the deepest goals, visions, and it is also useful in some conflict situations.
- Maggie Lovins