World Cafe Facilitation

August 07, 2017 

I was recently invited to facilitate a world cafe for the Big Sleep Out run by Lifewise Charity The Big Sleep Out has been going for 8 years and is run to generate awareness around Auckland’s homeless people problem. This year, 120 participants, from various businesses and organisations, came together and experienced “sleeping on the streets”.This years target was $350,000 (achieved) and the vision was to end youth homelessness. My task was to facilitate 60 participants in such a way that would generate greater will to contribute, in 80 minutes (reduced to 55 mins on the night), using the world cafe method.

A World Cafe is relatively easy to facilitate. The process is well worked out. The challenges I had were in creating the right atmosphere, making sure I could be heard and asking the right questions for the dialogue. As facilitators you will know the right questions can be crucial in achieving the purpose. Most of my preparation was therefore spent in working out the questions. I brainstormed with the client, dialogued with zenergy colleagues and got some coaching from Joel at the Regenesis Group  in New Mexico. These were the questions and the purpose that we came up with:

Purpose of the Innovation Cafe

To collaborate and dialogue around giving our vulnerable youth an opportunity for a different future.

Question 1

What makes you care enough about this issue of youth homelessness to do something crazy like sleep on a piece of cardboard in the streets tonight, where it will be cold, noisy and possibly dangerous?

Question 2

It is likely to be cold, wet and uncomfortable on the streets tonight. It will be mentally tough, surviving the night may become a challenge at some point for you. For now bring to mind being back at home, where it is warm, dry and comfortable. What are some of the obstacles or challenges you face in contributing?

Question 3

TeamNZ just won the America’s cup showing toughness, resilience, courage and innovation, as well as relying on support from home. A big win for the underdog. What is the potential you see for yourself, the youth and our communities coming together to work on this issue? What could you uniquely contribute?

The result was a very pleased client because, firstly, for about 2 hours after the cafe participants gathered at Refuel (coffee and tea area) and continued to network and dialogue with each other. This had not happened in any of the previous of BSO’s. Secondly they had 2 offers of support immediately from other organisations. And thirdly, a pathway became apparent in how they could start working nationwide with this issue.

If you have an organisation or event, that would prefer people dialoguing and actively participating, rather than being “talked at”, consider the world cafe process. I would be happy to talk with you about how to run one.

by Akasadaka Robison

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