1. First, create a pleasant atmosphere for the participants (e.g. with coffee and cookies) and cover each table (ideally a round one) with a tablecloth that can be written on (prepare this beforehand out of paper tablecloths or wallpaper remnants).
2. Assign participants to small groups (3-5 people) to sit together at a table. Each table can discuss a different theme, e.g. health, education, mobility.
3. In the small groups, the participants discuss the corresponding topic along a predefined question (+/- 20 minutes). The main points of the discussion should be recorded directly in writing or graphically on the tablecloth. There are several rounds of discussion, usually according to the number of different questions, e.g.: What are the problems? What ideas are in the room? Which stakeholders are involved?
4. After each round, participants move to any other table. A previously selected participant remains at the table as "host" to briefly summarize the previous discussions to the new participants.
5. In the second round of discussion, the recorded points of the previous discussion should be used to link them to the new round of discussion. There is also the possibility to collect completely new ideas. This process is repeated until each participant has visited all tables or the last question for discussion has been asked.
6. After the last round, the results and findings are presented to all participants by the hosts of the tables, who are the only ones who have followed all the discussions on the respective topic.
More about the tool
Advantages and Disadvantages
- The method literally brings all participants "to the table" and different points of view "on the table".
- The World Café is an efficient tool that can be carried out with few material and financial resources.
- The interlocutors get to know each other and each other's institutional backgrounds better.
- The participation of different stakeholders increases the acceptance of the solution approaches.
- The formulation of a specific question in preparation and the processing of the ideas in the follow-up can be very time-consuming.
- The follow-up is often made more difficult by illegible writing or contributions that are too short, e.g. "health", which are difficult to evaluate.
- The interviewees must be motivated to develop and discuss ideas.
Application into practice
The sub-project "Community between tradition and change (Village 4.0)" deals in münster.land.leben with the rural challenges of the village Ellewick-Crosewick of the municipality Vreden. With the goal of increasing the attractiveness of the village in the long term, the project aims to provide support through technical solutions. For this purpose, the various problems of the citizens regarding mobility, family, education, social and cultural life as well as health care first had to be identified in order to understand which possible solutions could be developed. To this end, those responsible for the project, in cooperation with the village's citizens' cooperative, invited the citizens to a World Café. With the help of this method, the problems in the areas of mobility, family, education, social and cultural life, and health care were identified in an initial round of discussions in small groups of three to eight people. A different topic was addressed at each of the five tables set up. After each round, participants moved to any other table. Based on the problems noted, possible solutions were developed in a second round. In a third round, participants discussed which stakeholders could be involved in implementing the previously mentioned ideas. Afterwards, the results of all tables were presented and discussed. As a result, the idea of a village app was generated, which can contribute to the solution of the most mentioned problems from the different areas.
Hints from practice
- Use a "silent observer" who records the conversations in the discussion rounds; this ensures that no aspects are neglected.
- A good moderator who keeps an eye on the time frame, involves everyone, and summarizes the results of the preliminary rounds well is important.
- Make sure that I-messages are used so that the participants can also identify with the problem: instead of "There is the problem that ..." use rather "I see the problem that ...".
- Divide the table template into different sections, each of which can be used to record the suggestions for a particular issue, or use different colors to better cluster the issues, e.g. red = problems/obstacles, green = solution approach, blue = stakeholders involved.
- Create a different theme for each table, e.g. mobility, health, associations, etc.
- Take photos of the tablecloths on site before removing them. This will make follow-up easier.