World Café Structure: Setting One Up

The tables will be set up with a stated topic/question.

You determine how many topics – this is dependent upon how much time you have, the conversations you are hoping participants to engage in and the number of people you expect to participate.

You will invite prior to the session, a host per topic to be responsible for one table.

The participants will choose the number 1 topic that interests them and start at that table.

Participants to participate in each topic (or most of the topics) and a final round occurs in which they choose the one they want to be involved in summarizing that topic’s dialogues.

Once conversation begins, participants can write out or draw their own thoughts/ comments as needed.  Writing out thoughts and comments during the rounds are critical for the last round!

The final round does not permit further conversations around the café topic instead it is focused on surfacing themes from the previous conversations and preparing a 3 minute presentation to the larger group. The café host will present.

Café Host Role

  • remain at your table during all rounds
  • bridge conversations from one round to another if necessary
  • subtly facilitate; do not lead or overpower the dialogue
  • ensure conversations are captured
  • encourage equal participation


(Assuming four rounds and one to summarize) 

 Round One – 15 minutes 

  • announce the  café topic at your table
  • open up dialogue
  • encourage people to write thoughts/comments on the table cloth
  • allow dialogue to expand past your question sheet but only if it remains on topic 

Rounds Two to Four – 2 minutes to update on previous dialogue and 12 minutes for discussion

  • announce the  café topic at your table, draw attention to any written comments on the table from the previous round and ask for a volunteer to launch the conversation from a remark/comment that is particularly interesting to them
  • same as above

Round Five (Final Round) – 15 minutes

  • no further dialogue on the Café Topic
  • agree on themes that emerged during the four conversation rounds; in particular clear areas of strength and areas of needed improvement and capture on flip chart ready to share with the large group.

What Outcomes can you expect from a World Café?

  • Rich and vibrant dialogue
  • Deeper understanding with respect to the questions you posed
  • Connection amongst the participants
  • Flipchart notes documented by the Hosts re: summary of each round of dialogue

Download: World Cafe Structure


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