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Design Research

World Cafe

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The essence of the WorldCafé lies in bringing together people with different insights or opinions, breaking them up in small groups and have them discuss a specific topic

A café-like atmosphere is set to make the participants feel at ease and invite them to share their thoughts. After a welcome and introduction, discussion sessions of 20/30 minutes are held. During these discussions new insights are written down on table cloths. After each session the participants move to different tables in order to meet new people and to circulate, deepen end connect the most powerful ideas and insights. One person may be left at the table as ‘table host’ for the next round, welcoming the next group and filling them in on what happened in the previous round. Every session a specific question or topic is discussed. The same questions/topics may be used for more than one round or they can built upon each other to focus the conversation or guide its direction. In the last phase of the WorldCafé , the so-called ‘harvesting’ session, the outcomes are shared within the larger group. As such, conversations held at different tables come together and melt into a pattern of wholeness.


The WorldCafé is based on seven design principles

  • setting a clear context (i.e. reason and goal of the meeting should be clear);
  • creating a hospitable space;
  • exploring questions that matter;
  • encouraging everyone’s contribution;
  • connecting diverse perspectives;
  • listening together for patterns and insights; 
  • sharing collective discoveries.

(source: Estelle Nieuwenkamp, 2013)