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Workshop formats: World cafe

The World Cafe format for workshop partcipation

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Simon Atkinson
8 December 2008

 Not an original notion - but an interesting one. The World cafe concept has been around a while

We use this technique often in our workshops (, and at a recent event UTS (University of Technology Sydney) it attracted some interesting comments - so perhaps worth a reminder.

You've done some input, you have some group tasks defined and the groups are all working away. Then there is the dreaded plenary, you've allowed 5 minutes for each group to feedback on their deliberations - but the second group goes on for ages and by the time you get to the sixth round of feedback people feel they have nothing to add. 

In this workshop model (there are lots of variations) 7 groups of 4 each worked away on the task we had assigned them for 15 minutes, supported by a single sheet of A4 on which to record their comments (having white paper tablecloths and lots of pens works even better). Instead of asking for feedback, each group nominates one person to stay seated at their table and all the other people must get up and move to a new table - with each person from the group joining a new table with none of the original members. (this is a good thing to do after lunch!). Once everyone is settled back into a new grouping, the 'resident' person explains that groups comments and accepts observations from the other groups represented (in this case 3). The actual representation is less important, the intention is to have feedback shared widely and talked about. Participants then return to their original groups and spend some time feeding back on what they have heard. 

On a practical level it makes the facilitators time control task easier, and for participants it makes for a more engaging feedback process. 

The variations are part of the fun, but it can work well with 16 or 160 !

Been thinking about this given Diana Laurillard's suggestion that the workshop was possibly a suitable foci for the majority of dimensions in the conversational framework.

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Gráinne Conole
1:32am 8 December 2008

Hiya thanks for adding this - I hadn't come across this format before and can

see lots of uses for it. I like it for a number of reasons, it's interesting,

active, and enables flexible but structured debate.

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