The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

The 300-page book, The World Cafe, was written by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and published April 2005. In the first comprehensive book on the World Café, co-founders Brown and Isaacs introduce readers to this simple yet powerful conversational process for thinking together, evoking collective intelligence, and creating actionable results.

Beautifully illustrated with stories contributed by World Café practitioners, this is still the most definitive compendium of Café Know-How available.

Available in Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Simple Chinese, Complex Chinese, German, Korean, and Thai. Below is an excerpt from the foreword of the book, which can be purchased on the World Café site here.

From the foreword…

We Can Be Wise Only Together
By Margaret J Wheatley

The World Café process reawakens our deep species memory of two fundamental beliefs about human life. First, we humans want to talk together about things that matter to us. In fact, this is what gives satisfaction and meaning to life. Second, as we talk together, we are able to access a greater wisdom that is found only in the collective.

The World Café in Action
As you read the stories and counsel in this book, you will see these two beliefs brought to life in the Café process. In order to provoke your exploration of them, I’d like to underline some of the dimensions of the Café process that bring these beliefs into vibrant, healthy reality.

Belief in Everybody
The World Café is a good, simple process for bringing people together around questions that matter. It is founded on the assumption that people have the capacity to work together, no matter who they are. For me, this is a very important assumption. It frees us from our current focus on personality types, learning styles, emotional IQ—all the popular methods we currently use to pre-identify and pre-judge people. Each of these typologies ends up separating and stereotyping people. This is not what was intended by their creators, but it is what has happened. The Café process has been used in many different cultures, among many different age groups, for many different purposes, and in many different types of communities and organizations. It doesn’t matter who the people are—the process works. It works because people can work well together, can be creative and caring and insightful when they’re actively engaged in meaningful conversations around questions that count. I hope that these stories inspire us to move away from all the categories and stereotypes we currently use about who should be involved, who should attend a meeting—all the careful but ill-founded analysis we put into constructing the “right” group. We need to be focused on gathering the real diversity of the system, but that’s quite different from being absorbed with these other sorting devices.

Diversity
It’s important to notice the diversity of the places and purposes for which the World Café is used, and the diversity of participants who are encouraged to attend World Café gatherings. These pages contain a rich illustration of a value I live by: we need to depend on diversity. Including diversity well is a survival skill these days, because there’s no other way to get an accurate picture of any complex problem or system. We need many eyes and ears and hearts engaged in sharing perspectives. How can we create an accurate picture of the whole if we don’t honor the fact that we each see something different because of who we are and where we sit in the system? Only when we have many different perspectives do we have enough information to make good decisions. And exploring our differing perspectives always brings us closer together. One Café member said it well: “You’re moving among strangers, but it feels as if you’ve known these people for a long time.” Invitation In every World Café, there’s a wonderful feeling of invitation. Attention is paid to creating hospitable space. But the hospitality runs much deeper. It is rooted in the host’s awareness that everyone is needed, that anyone might contribute something that suddenly sparks a collective insight. Café facilitators are true hosts—creating a spirit of welcome that is missing from most of our processes. It’s important to notice this in the stories here, and to contrast it with your own experience of setting up meetings and processes. What does it feel like to be truly wanted at an event, to be greeted by meeting hosts who delight in your presence, to be welcomed in as a full contributor?

Listening
When people are engaged in meaningful conversation, the whole room reflects curiosity and delight. People move closer physically, their faces exhibit intense listening, and the air becomes charged with their attention to each other. A loud, resonant quiet develops, broken by occasional laughter. It becomes a challenge to call people back from these conversations (which I always take as a good sign).

Movement
In the World Café process, people generally move from table to table. But it’s much more than physical movement. As we move, we leave behind our roles, our preconceptions, our certainty. Each time we move to a new table, we lose more of ourselves and become bigger—we now represent a conversation that happened among several people. We move away from a confining sense of self and our small certainties into a spaciousness where new ideas can reveal themselves. As one participant describes it: “It’s almost as if you don’t know where the thought came from because it has merged so many times that it has been molded and shaped and shifted with new dimensions. People are speaking for each other and using words that started somewhere else that they hadn’t thought of before.” We also move into a greater awareness as we look for connections amongst the conversations, as we listen to voices other than our own. Patterns become apparent. Things we couldn’t see from our own narrow perspective suddenly become obvious to the entire group.

Good Questions
World Café dialogues, like all good conversations, succeed or fail based on what we’re talking about. Good questions—ones that we care about and want to answer—call us outward and to each other. They are an invitation to explore, to venture out, to risk, to listen, to abandon our positions. Good questions help us become both curious and uncertain, and this is always the road that opens us to the surprise of new insight.

Energy
I’ve never been in a World Café that was dull or boring. People become energized, inspired, excited, creative. Laughter is common, playfulness abounds even with the most serious of issues. For me this is proof positive of how much we relish being together, of how wonderful it is to rediscover the fact of human community. As one host from a very formal culture says: “My faith in people has been confirmed. Underneath all the formal ways of the past, people really want to have significant conversations. People everywhere truly love to talk with each other, learn together, and make a contribution to things they care about.”

Discovering Collective Wisdom
These are some of the Café dimensions that bring out the best in us. But this is only half the story. World Café conversations take us into a new realm, one that has been forgotten in modern, individualistic cultures. It is the realm of collective intelligence, of the wisdom we possess as a group that is unavailable to us as individuals. This wisdom emerges as we get more and more connected with each other, as we move from conversation to conversation, carrying the ideas from one conversation to another, looking for patterns, suddenly surprised by an insight we all share. There’s a good scientific explanation for this, because this is how all life works. As separate ideas or entities become connected to each other, life surprises us with emergence—the sudden appearance of new capacity and intelligence. All living systems work in this way. We humans got confused and lost sight of this remarkable process by which individual actions, when connected, lead to much greater capacity.

About World CaféWorld Cafe_logo
Using seven design principles and a simple method, the World Café is a powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter, offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

Follow on Twitter: @TWCcommunity

Resource Link: www.theworldcafe.com/world-cafe-book/

Divisive Discourse: The Extreme Rhetoric of Contemporary American Politics

The 258-page book, Divisive Discourse: The Extreme Rhetoric of Contemporary American Politics, by Joseph Zompetti was published January 2015. In the book, he discusses the extreme rhetoric that currently prevails in American political discourse and its subsequent effects on people to disengage and the political environment to become polarized. Zompetti shares insight into this toxic political environment, sheds light on the extreme rhetorical practices performed in US politics, and offers critical thinking skills for people to better participate despite this.

Divisive_discourseBelow is an excerpt from the book and it can be purchased on Amazon here.

From the book…

Divisive Discourse challenges assumptions about political ideology. The book examines the techniques and contents of the divisive discourse that pervades contemporary American political conversation. It teaches us about extreme rhetoric, thus enabling readers to be more critical consumers of information.

The book provides a framework for identifying and interpreting extreme language. Readers learn about rhetorical fallacies and the strategies used by political pundits to manipulate and spin information.

In subsequent chapters the author examines and analyzes how divisive discourse is used in discussions of specific political issues including homosexual rights, gun control, and healthcare.

Divisive Discourse provides insight into how divisive discourse leads to societal fragmentation, and fosters apathy, confusion, animosity, and ignorance. By exposing the rhetoric of division and teaching readers how to confront it, the book reinvigorates the potential to participate in politics and serves as a guide for how to have civil discussions about controversial issues. Divisive Discourse is an ideal teaching tool for anyone interested in contemporary issues and courses in political science, media studies, or rhetoric.

About Joseph Zompetti
Dr. Zompetti is professor of communication at Illinois State University where he teaches courses in communication and social issues, classical rhetoric, and political communication. Dr. Zompetti’s research interests include the rhetoric of critical cultural studies and the rhetoric of civic engagement.

Resource Link: Divisive Discourse: The Extreme Rhetoric of Contemporary American Politics

The Reunited States of America

The 192-page book by Mark Gerzon, The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide, was published February 2016. This book is a manifesto on how to bridge the political divide in America, during a time when the political environment is deeply poisoned. Gerzon shares the experiences of 40 individuals and organizations that are already doing the work of finding common ground, and working together around challenging and divisive issues. Here you will find a toolkit to join the emerging movement towards a transpartisan political environment and help reunite the states of America.

You can find the book on Mark Gerzon’s site here and also, in physical copy or audio format from Amazon here.

Reunited_StatesFrom the book…

We Americans are solving problems and achieving positive results not despite but because of our differences. Many or our fellow citizens are living evidence of this third story. They are putting country before party. They are drawing the outlines of a new political map that connects us rather than divides us. They are forming networks and organizations that are building bridges rather than walls. They are bridging the partisan divide- in living rooms and in communities, in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill.

Story #3 does not mean agreeing on everything. Nor does it mean being “nice” or being “moderate” or “splitting the difference”. On the contrary, it may mean fighting for what one believes in- but respecting one’s adversary for doing the same. It means knowing the difference between an issue on which you are willing to listen and learn, and one where you believe you are not. Above all, it means disagreeing strongly without ever forgetting that “they” probably love America just as much as “we” do. 

The truth is, 70 to 90 of us say that we are “very patriotic”. That means almost all of us claim to love our country deeply. If we love our family, we want it to stay connected. Similarly, if we love America, we naturally want our country to be able to work through its deep and genuine difference and remain united.

This book is part of a campaign- not a Republican or Democratic campaign, but an American campaign; not a campaign for office, but a campaign for our country. It is about the people, some of whom are our neighbors, who are drawing a new political map that connects us rather than divides us. It is about our fellow citizens who are already reuniting American- in living rooms and in communities, in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill. These are, in my view, today’s real American heroes.

The book is available for purchase, both in physical and audio format, from Amazon here

About Mark Gerzon
Mark is an author, leadership expert, and veteran convener of cross-party conversations. Having worked in both the private and public sectors, both domestically and internationally, his primary current focus is having a positive, transformative impact impact on the 2016 election.

Resource Link: www.markgerzon.com/

Change for the Audacious: a doer’s guide

The 240-page book, Change for the Audacious: a doers’ guide by Steve Waddell, was published in 2016. This book explores how we must, and can do much better at addressing issues such as: climate change, food security, health, education, environmental degradation, peace-building, water, equity, corruption, and wealth creation. This book is for people working on these types of issues, with the belief that we can create a future that is not just “sustainable”, but also flourishing. This perspective means that the challenge is not just one of simple change, but of transformation – radical change in the way we perceive our world, create relationships and organize our societies. This is the implication of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and other global efforts, and also innumerable efforts locally, nationally and regionally.

Audacious_ChangeThis book approaches these challenges as large systems change issues: issues requiring engagement of many, many people and organizations often globally; issues requiring deep innovation with shifts in mindsets and power structures; and issues that require capacity to work with complexity. Large systems change is presented as a new field of practice and knowledge; the book is not about a “method” or particular “approach”; rather it provides an overview of frameworks, methods and approaches to develop capacity to use the appropriate ones in particular contexts.

After introducing concepts of transformation and complexity, the book presents five case studies of large systems change. These cases and others are referenced throughout the remainder of the book to present large systems change strategy, organizing structures, steps in developing the necessary collective action, tools, and personal guidance for change practitioners.

About Steve Waddell & NetworkingAction
Responding to the 21st century’s enormous global challenges and realizing its unsurpassed opportunities require new ways of acting and organizing. NetworkingAction is my personal vehicle to support organizational, network, and societal change and development, through consultation, education, research, and personal leadership. In particular, I focus upon intersectoral (business-government-civil society) and inter-organizational collaboration to produce innovation, enhance impact, and build new capacity. These initiatives may be local, national and/or global. The topics are varied, including water, forestry, youth, finance, economic development, and peace.

Resource Link: http://networkingaction.net/product/a-truly-path-breaking-work/

This resource was submitted by Steve Waddell, the Principal at NetworkingAction via the Add-a-Resource form.

Transformative Conversations

This 184-page book, Transformative Conversations, by Dr. Ada Gonzalez offers guidance on how to improve communication and strengthen dialogue skills. You can find more info on the book site here or go directly to Amazon.

From Transformative Conversations

transformative_convosThe book Transformative Conversations is a resource to any leader, coach, or facilitator who is working to improve their leadership. This is far from the first book written that deals with the dynamics of dialogue and effective communication. This book weaves wisdom from many sources into a useful flow that informs the reader about not only why this is a valuable subject, it gives clear guidance on how to pull it off.

This book provides practical tools and guidance to transform your communications by helping you create deeper understanding and meaning. The text is full of effective illustrations, stories, examples, helpful exercises and even prescriptive guidance on specifically what to say to facilitate participation, collaboration, dialogue and handle certain difficult situations.

If you want to know how dialogue helps to balance the amount of listening and asserting occurring between people at work, and how to ignite engagement and commitment to accomplishing business priorities, this book provides instructions on both. If you want to know how to improve dialogue and collaboration among any group of people, this book will give you guidance on how to do it.

More about Dr. Gonzalez
Dr. Gonzalez is an executive coach, facilitator, and a consultant in organizational behavior. She works with leaders, businesses and organizations to facilitate change, development and transformation through dialogue. She shows business leaders how to discover the power of leading through conversations. For more than 25 years as a change agent, and crafter of organizational dialogue, Gonzalez has provided support and created a safe space for development, learning, and growth.

Dr. Gonzalez lives in Delaware and serves as an adjunct professor for the University of Delaware. She did undergraduate and graduate work at Andrews University in Michigan, and post-graduate training as a Marriage and Family Therapist. She earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior at the Union Institute and University in Ohio, specializing on leadership, dialogue, and transformation.

Follow on Twitter: @PhDAda

Resource Link: www.transformativeconversations.com/take-action/

This resource was submitted by Dr. Ada Luz Gonzalez, owner of Logos Noesis, via the Add-a-Resource form.