Graphic Recording as a way to capturing collective intelligence

Posted by & filed under Graphic Recording, World Café Europe Coaching Process, World Café Europe in general, World Rhythmics Café®.

It was at a meeting of World Café practitioners in northern California where we first encountered the use of graphic recording.  As the discussion enfolded, a woman was diligently drawing on a large roll of horizontal paper attached to a wall in the corner of the room. We had never seen graphic recording in action before and, as a result, were quite curious to learn more. We went up to her and asked to tell us more about her work and its purpose.  A fascinating conversation ensued. Our friendship with Susan Kelly, one of the finest graphic recorders around, began.

At the time we did not know that Susan had played a central role to establish the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP). This is a network of professionals worldwide which promotes the use of capturing ideas of dialogues, meetings and other settings in a wide variety of visual formats. IFVP hosts annual meetings in the US to offer graphic recorders from beginning to advanced as a way to deepen their know-how and practice.

David Issacs, one of the founders of the World Café, has always considered graphic recording as an integral part of hosting a World Café. Inspired by David’s dedication to the magic mix of dialogue and visualization, World Café Europe has continued to explore the integration of the design of a World Café and the use of graphic recording in all of its projects.

Our first major step in this direction was World Café Europe’s cooperation with LAN Ekintza of the city of Bilbao (Spain).  Together with the department which promotes the creation of new small and mediums enterprises (Promoción Cultura Emprendedora  – Servicio Apoyo Creación Empresas) , World Café Europe created a learning program to enable young Basque professionals to learn and practice graphic recording in real work situations. Nine graphic recorders went through this coaching process. At the end of a period of about four months, they were able to independently serve as a graphic recorders for the local World Cafés at the 2nd World Café European Gathering which was held in Bilbao. Since this time, World Café Europe has engaged several of these graphic recorders for other World Cafés which have taken place in Spain. EVAA Bilbao - Saioa at work

 EVAA Bilbao Thematic Café –  (c) Saioa Leguinagoicoa Garcia

Photo (c) Suzanne Bürger

The process of one-on-one coaching coaching in real time was continued during the  European Voices for Active Ageing project. Prior to the Thematic Café in Bonn (Germany), an individual who was interested to learn more about graphic recording (but who had no previous experience) was coached. However, her extensive graphic design and drawing experience was a great foundation to build upon. The EVAA Bonn Thematic Café was provided her with an optimal hands-on learning opportunity to put ideas into practice by working together with an experienced graphic recorder during the event itself. The result was a wonderful mix of two styles which captured the spirit of this World Café.

EVAA Bonn - Graphic Recording

EVAA Bonn Thematic Café – (c) Gabi Schluttig + Patricia Munro

All of the other five Thematic Cafés of the European Voices for Active Ageing were held in English and the local language of the event. As a result, World Café also identified bi-lingual graphic rcorders to capture the ideas of (most) of the other Thematic Cafés throughout Europe. Even though we couldn’t locate a Czech-English graphic recorder, the artistic tradition of this country certainly offers great potential for emerging graphic recorders! Hopefully a future project which is envisioned for Prague will enable World Café Europe to tap into this potential.

 EVAA Bologna - Graphic recording

EVAA Bologna – (c) Alfredo Carlo Housatonic

Photo (c) Lorenzo Pondrelli

The World Rhythmics Café® has also provided World Café Europe with an on-going  platform to experiment with the use of graphic recording. World Café Europe has been developing this innovative mixture of body movement and music with the use of the World Café process. Through this creative collaboration, World Café Europe wants to explore new avenues for the World Café through the experimental use of music, dance, dialogue and art as a holistic dialogue experience. As a result, World Rhythmics Café® provides a rich environment to experiment with the integration of new forms of graphic recording as part of the conceptual design process. To date, the graphic recording has taken many different forms:

Traditional graphic recording – (c) Patricia Munro

WRC 2009 Hellerau

Three-dimensional graphic recording – (c) M. Tranquillini

WCEG 2007 - Graphic Recording






Impressionistic Graphic Recording – (c) Gabi Schluttig

Exploring new avenues foster to participatory art by the participants


Participatory artwork inspired by Q2 codes and conceived by Alexander Neumann (Dresden)

Discovering “Next practice” of the use of the World Café in society is one of the raison-d’être of World Café Europe’s efforts. As our projects develop, we are committed to continue our efforts to explore innovative ideas to integrate graphic recording as an enhancement to our World Café designs and identify new partners to collaborate with us.

Heartfelt thanks to Susan for introducing World Café Europe to this on-going creative journey!

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