Blog entry of Anja Siegert | 14.09.2021

World Café – also online a success

Goal of a World Café: Participative problem solving
The World Café is a popular method to encourage participants in a workshop to engage in intensive discussions even when the group size is large. And by doing so, solving various questions and tasks on differerent topcis and perspectives.
CONTUR three women in discussion

virtual or face-to-face

Group size: 12-50 participants

Duration: 1-3 hours

When can a World Café be used?

In a World Café, very different questions and topics can be discussed and developed by the participants. I use it primarily when many participants should discuss actively in a workshop, solutions are to be generated collaboratively, or causes and connections are to be reflected upon:

  • Swarm intelligence: the World Café method is always suitable when creative ideas or new solutions for complex issues are to be worked on with the help of swarm intelligence.
  • Reflection: The World Café offers the space to reflect on complex issues and to identify causes and connections.
  • Inclusive: In the World Café, everyone can make their voices heard. It offers the possibility to include all participants even with large group sizes and thus to illuminate issues from different sides.

What is the process of a World Café?

world cafe grafik

Discussion rounds with rotation principle

For each question that is to be answered in the World Café, there is a discussion leader, also called host. Each host is at his or her own table or pin board. In a series of discussion rounds, the workshop participants divide up among the discussion rounds, work on the question and write down their results. When time is up, participants move to another table.

The hosts stay, welcome a new group and present the results of the previous group to them. The new group, in turn, picks up where the previous group left off, continues the question and adds further insights and ideas.

Ideally, the groups mix each time the tables are rotated, allowing for even more exchange between the participants. This rotation principle is repeated until all participants have worked on each question once. Through this process, the questions are iterated and the final state includes the perspectives of all participants. At the end, the hosts present the entire results of their question.

As a rule, 3 to 5 different questions are suitable, with a discussion time of 15 to 30 minutes per round.
In presence, the setup of the World Café can also be café-like, with table decorations, coffee and writable tablecloths.

Conduct a World Café online

Especially in online workshops, I often find it difficult to include all participants. I often speak to circles with the abbreviations of the participants in the video call. There is often a lack of interaction and feedback. The good thing is that the World Café can also be conducted digitally. In this way, I also manage to bring all participants together online and motivate them to participate in active discussions.

Instead of individual tables, we work with breakout sessions or extra meetings. The documentation of the results as well as the division of the groups is organized in a whiteboard or document with joint editing.

CONTUR two woman smile

Working in the discussion rooms

For dividing the whole group into smaller groups, there are different options: Do you want to assign participants to breakout sessions or provide links to additional meeting rooms? Do you determine the groups beforehand or can the participants choose a group themselves? Also, should the discussion groups remix between rounds?

But first things first:
If you want to work with breakout sessions, create a room for each discussion question. Participants then navigate independently between discussion rounds to their new rooms. The hosts stay in their room.
So to avoid confusion here, participants should know when you are in which discussion group. It is best to provide a schedule here.

In MS teams, it is unfortunately currently not possible for participants to select the sub-discussion themselves. Here you have to assign the participants manually. It is best to test the creation of group rooms in your meeting tool beforehand to familiarize yourself with it.

To ensure that everything runs smoothly, you, as the moderator, can also call in technical support. This person can help the participants to find their way around the tool.

World-Café with MS Teams

If you work with MS Teams, you can alternatively use a link to another meeting for each discussion round. To do this, create another online meeting via Outlook or Teams, for example, and copy the meeting link. These links are provided to the participants in the workshop. After the end of a discussion round, the participants must then independently select the link to the correct next group discussion.

Another method we have tried is to create a team for the workshop and create a channel for each discussion question. This channel then contains the discussion link for the discussion group and the corresponding whiteboard or PowerPoint slides in the tabs. The participants can then use this channel structure well for orientation.

Group Meeting

Recording the results

A shared document or a shared whiteboard should be used to note down the findings, thoughts and ideas from the discussion rounds. For example, Miro or the MS Whiteboard can be used here.

We also like to work with a sharded document, in which we also divide the groups and record the results. It is important that this file can be edited by all participants. Here, a shared PowerPoint can be used via Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive or other solutions in the cloud. Generally, a tool that participants are already familiar with is recommended.

Prior to the sessions, make sure that the hosts and participants are familiar with the selected tool. It is best to brief the hosts again in advance on how to use a whiteboard, for example.

 

Small Groups

When dividing the groups, I would first choose the hosts. They should volunteer for this task if possible. Then it is the turn of the remaining participants. If the participants form the groups themselves, we also recommend using the common working document or whiteboard. Here the participants can write their names in prepared tables in groups.

Should the groups be shuffled after each round? Make sure that all participants have a schedule with the corresponding group assignment.

Conclusion: My tips for your World Café

Anyone planning an interactive workshop in the near future and considering the World Café method should take the following aspects into account:

  • The group assignment and time allocation to the individual discussion rounds should be made available to all participants in an understandable way. Online, a technical support is a great help, which supports the coordination of the participants and the discussion rounds.
  • For the greatest possible interaction, all participants should have the opportunity to record their ideas and thoughts. Be it in paper form with sufficient post-its or online in a shared document or whiteboard.
  • Clearly formulated questions whose solutions directly affect the participants are motivating. Therefore, make good use of the time invested and consider carefully how best to formulate the questions during preparation.

If you are planning a workshop, we will be happy to support you in moderating and facilitating your workshop or event. In addition to the World Café, we use numerous other methods of facilitation and are sure to find the right one for your needs.

Click here to visit our page: Facilitation workshops, meetings, events digital & on-site.

Do you like to moderate or train yourself, but you are still missing impulses for the implementation of digital trainings? Then perhaps our “Train the Online Trainer” seminar is an exciting offer for you.

Author

As a personnel developer, I have already held many World Cafés on various topics. The group sizes have ranged from 15 to 50 participants. Since the format has always brought me and my participants great added value for the development of new ideas and solutions, I don’t want to have to do without it in online workshops either. With good planning, the World Café also works wonderfully online.

Siegert_Anja_Conturie

Anja Siegert

Team New Business

+49 941 78 44 75 0

a.siegert@contur-online.de

Author

As a personnel developer, I have already held many World Cafés on various topics. The group sizes have ranged from 15 to 50 participants. Since the format has always brought me and my participants great added value for the development of new ideas and solutions, I don’t want to have to do without it in online workshops either. With good planning, the World Café also works wonderfully online.

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