The aim of this paper is to report on findings related to the use of a large group intervention method known as The World Café.
The intervention method and its philosophical genesis are described along with lessons learned from observation, personal use, and interviews with café participants.
While The World Café approach has the potential to make significant contributions to large group knowledge exchange and collective meaning making, it has suffered from being used by inexperienced facilitators and for reasons not well suited to the method. Participants, as a result, have failed to achieve the results expected and in some cases formed negative opinions of a lasting nature about the method and its proponents.
The limitations of this paper and its generalizability are framed within the nature of a case study, which is neither a representation of the whole nor a controlled experiment. Every effort has been made to fairly represent all perspectives as they were presented.
The World Café and its many imitations has been employed at numerous conferences, retreats, and gatherings during the last decade. Thousands of individuals around the world have been exposed to this method and many within the LO community have been exposed to it without understanding both its benefits and perils. Organizational leaders and practitioners can better analyze the value of this approach when measured against the learning goals of an event.
The paper makes an objective presentation of experiences with the method and shares lessons learned from the participant and practitioner perspective.
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