World Café

What is it?

The World Café enables a (large) group of people who normally would not, or rarely, meet to exchange ideas on a specific theme in a short time. It is a creative way to start to dialogue and to share knowledge on a particular topic.

The essential thing is to create an informal atmosphere; this is achieved by splitting the large group into smaller groups of 4 to 5 people who discuss the chosen topic at small ‘café tables’. The composition of participants at each ‘café table’ changes after 20 to 30 minutes. In this way they share in many different conversations. There is always one person who stays at the table as ‘host/hostess’. This creates a rapid exchange of information and creates a pool of shared knowledge. All the ideas are carefully listed on a large sheet of paper that always stays on the same table. The ‘host’ welcomes the new group members at the beginning of each round and briefly summarises the main ideas and themes that have already been discussed. At the end of the process the different sheets of paper and the results are collated and then presented in a plenary session.

What results can it produce?

  • Participants can easily and quickly share in the discussion because of the informality
  • The formula is flexible and suitable for different situations and issues
  • The process can quickly and inexpensively create a support base for the policy of an organisation
  • This method is suitable for working out in depth a difficulty or a question so that new ideas and solutions can emerge
  • Ideas, insights and questions are brought together through the participation of people from different backgrounds and experiences so that a coherent and balanced whole is produced

When to use

  • To collect research questions – at the beginning of a leadership training Dynamo uses this approach to help the participants quickly agree on criteria for good leadership
  • To highlight a subject from as many perspectives as possible – Dynamo has used this approach in customer focus projects
  • To discover ideas for solutions and policy options – Dynamo has guided the members, representatives and supporters of a political party in coming to an understanding of a good program


Especially suitable for large groups. Can be used for 8 to 1,000 people. It is better to have more process leaders for larger groups.

Guidelines and principles

The atmosphere of the World Café