"If you want to change the future,
you have to change the conversation.“

Alan Webber
Founder of Fast Company and former Chief Editor of Harvard Business Review

Why does dialogue work?

The basis of WCE’s work to foster meaningful conversations about issues that matter is based on two underlying assumptions:

The knowledge and wisdom which we require is already present and can be made accessible

Participants bring his/her personal life experience to the conversation.  No one person may have an overview of all the potential solutions for a given topic. However when enough people are brought together in a large group dialogue, this  knowledge is actually present.  A key challenge when organizing such a large scale dialogue is to ensure that the right people are in the room.  As a result, the invitation strategy plays a central role in tandem with the content formulation during the World Café process. WCE has developed many formats to make this knowledge in the room visible to everyone.

When the system connects with itself in creative ways, collective intelligence emerges.

There is a constant change of tables during a World Café to make sure that the ideas which are being discussed are also disseminated throughout the room. The changing of tables has an additional effect: it supports the emergence of key shared understandings which are circulating in the room.

Try this brief thought experiment:

Imagine a World Café with 200 participants at 50 tables. There are four participants at each table. During the first round of conversation, 4 opinions are represented at the table. When the participants change their tables for the first time, four new people are sitting together. Each of these participants brings 4 opinions to the next discussion. As a result, 16 opinions are ‘represented’ at the table. This process continues in the subsequent rounds of conversations. During the third discussion round, 64 opinions are represented and during the fourth round 256 opinions are represented. Theoretically, by only changing the tables three times, the opinion of every participant on the given topic is represented!

A metaphor from neuroscience provides a visualization of this process. When neurons in our brains are connected with each other, knowledge emerges. By connecting all the participants in the room by regularly changing tables, a similar process occurs during the course of a World Café.