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!

Listening in: Voices for Active Ageing in Europe

Posted by & filed under Allgemein, European Voices for Active Ageing (EVAA), EVAA documentation.

Even though our project plans are well thought out in terms of purpose, goals and actions, World Café Europe has discovered that it is important for us to keep our minds open to emerging possibilities. Even with the best of planning, these unique opportunities are not always evident at the onstart of a project.  The creation of a video documentation of the six Thematic Cafés of the European Voices for Active Ageing project was part of our initial project plan. However, another video series emerged as well – one to listen to about what individual older adults think about active ageing.  70 interviews later, we recognize that these videos were an important addition to our efforts. They provide a convincing visual contribution about the untapped wisdom of older adults – not only about active ageing – but potentially about any issue which matters to their lives and the communities in which they live.

Listening in EVAA London

 What does active ageing mean to you?

A simple, but powerful question. Not one that is easy for everyone to answer.  It is a question which     requires reflection from all of us. Our life experience enables us to ponder this question. Out of this relfection emerges a deeply personal understanding of  active ageing. Ultimately this personal understanding affects the decisions which we make throughout our lives – not only after retirement at age 65+ . As José Ramón (Spain) noted „We should be conscious about active ageing throughout our lives. We start to age the moment we are born!“

  Photo (c)Alex Rumford

The project European Voices for Active Ageing was designed to give adults aged 50+ a voice. Each of the 6 dialogues created a platform for dialogues which were designed by and for older adults in order to explore topics key to fostering active ageing. The results and recommendations from these dialogues reflect the wisdom and life experience which each individual brought with them to the dialogue. So we thought:  why not capture the individual insights as well as the collective wisdom? That is when the idea for the ‚waves‘ of active ageing videos with participants of the Thematic Cafés emerged.

These one-on-one interviews provided a rich resource of qualititative information. The comments which were made by the interviewees naturally reflected the topic of the Thematic Café in which they had participated. However looking at the comments as a whole, the „wisdom + experience from a long life“  as Luis, one of the Spanish interviewees stated, became very clear.

95 year old

EVAA’s Oldest Participant at age 95       Photo (c) Lukas Zentel

To foster active ageing, society must recognize that „…citizens over 65, 70, 75…have been working many years and can contribute a lot to society“ Judith (Spain) advocated. She continued by saying that (on a personal level) active ageing is  „To develop your vitality regardless of the situation. …(and by doing so)….A whole new window of opportunity begins to open up.“ Dieter (Germany) deepens this positive view of ageing by recognizing life after the end of a work career as „…the beginning of a phase of life which one can design oneself“. Obviously active ageing is for those individuals who were interviewed not an end but an on-going  development. Carol (UK) put this thought very simply „I don’t want to give up.“  But society’s stereotypes about adults aged 50+ makes realization of these views a continual challenge.

Smiling in a field of bubbles

A Celebration of Age    Photo (c) Alex Rumford

The interviewees all agreed that active ageing is a journey which has both a personal and social component. It offers individuals the opportunity „to continue to develop themselves, no matter what age.“ explained Jacques (Belgium). Other interviewees echoed this natural sense of continuum of personal development. But the scope of active ageing is much more than just a personal quest. To be active, to be in good shape“ are certainly key factors but „to feel useful for society“ is also an integral part of active ageing according to Oldrich (Czech Republic). Conni (Spain) agreed „(Active Ageing) is about …“maintaining a level of participation and activity (throughout life)“.

Making a Point EVAA London   Photo (c) Alex Rumford

Active Ageing also brings with it the possibility of „…doing something else for yourself and for others“ stated Ulrike (Germany) as she decribed her commitment to civic engagement in society. Many interviewees also agreed with  Ludmilla’s (Czech Republic) sense of active ageing as  a way to „apply my experience that I have gained during my personal and professional life.“

Importantly, work does not stop at retirement for the interviewees. Active ageing is to continue  „work, collaboration, (which also comes with) obligation, not entitlement.“ affirmed Máximo (Spain). An understanding of the productive life of adults aged 50 and older need to shift in society. Active agers  like Janet (US) expect to have „meaningful work either paid or unpaid until my last breath.“

Christian Wienberg

Photo (c) Sandra Then

As these interviews demonstrate, there is no lack of understanding among adults aged 50 – 100+ about the issues  which foster active ageing. The ever-active octogenarian Esther (UK) gracefully reiterated this in her interview when she stated that these adults need  not to be talked at – but given a  voice – and by doing so, listened to for their know-how and wisdom which is available to transform society.

As Sylvie (France) enthusiastically declared: „Let us profit from these new activities and new areas for activity!“  However to realize this, a conscious effort to create a new culture of conversation with adults aged 50+ is required. All the members of the generations over 50 have a wealth of life experience and wisdom to tackle the demographic challenges facing Europe. By actively participating in the discussions about active ageing, their invaluable contribution will be voiced and heard. When this culture of conversation is embraced by society, it will provide a solid and stakeholder-driven foundation for an innovative and sustainable transformation process for an increasingly ageing Europe.

Want to hear more voices? Listen to the six waves of interviews about active ageing by adults all over Europe:

  1. The first wave – Bilbao
  2. The second wav – Bonn
  3. The third wave – Prague
  4. The fourth wave – London
  5. The fifth wave – Bologna
  6. The sixth wave – Strasbourg

Beyond Brainstorming + Speed-dating: Designing World Cafés for Results

Posted by & filed under Allgemein, World Café Consulting, World Café Europe in general.

It’s been 5 years since World Café Europe was founded „to transform the way in which citizens engage in and take responsibility for the key social challenges facing Europe.“  One of the ways which we fulfill this mission is to model and disseminate ‚Best Practice‘ in the innovative design, facilitation, harvesting and analysis of participants‘ input from a World Café.  Our efforts are driven to move beyond what we see as the ‚watering down‘ of a powerful process by categorizing the World Café only as a method. It is much more. The World Café process offers civil society, government and business with a deeply strategic process which – when conceived and carried out in the spirit  of „Best Practice‘ – unleashes the creativity, motivation and innovation of people everywhere.  World Café Europe strives for this kind of excellence in our journey to deepen this practice and, by doing so, aspire to create a new culture of communication in society which is inspired by the use of dialogue.

World Cafe tables ZGP - Renoir style

Tables of 4 ready for the World Café to begin

Together with our colleagues from all over Europe, we have been experimenting with new approaches in the design, facilitation, harvesting and analysis of participants‘ input and learned a lot about the realization of World Cafés  which have a sustainable impact.  Such dialogues offer a rich resource of collective wisdom about dealing with issues. They enable a group to discover new paths and identify realizable solutions.

World Café Europe is committed to share this accrued know-how with others. We do this in a number of ways and are continuing to discover new avenues to communicate our know-how and experience:

1)  By modelling  ‚Best practice‘ in all the World Cafés which we do – either on a paid or volunteer basis

2) By mentoring and coaching individuals who are dedicated to learn, improve their practice and make a difference through their use of the World Café in society

3) By partnering with other organizations to undertake pan-European or country-based projects which use the World Café process in an innovative way about an issue that matters

4) Through sharing the process and results of our work on our website as well as a variety of social media such as this blog as well as via Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and  SlideShare.

5) By providing consulting services to both non-profit and businesses to plan, design, facilitate and analyze both the results and impact of a World Café.

During the course of our cooperation with a broad range of organizations and businesses, World Café Europe has identified a variety of kinds of World Cafés. Each has a clear purpose which fulfills specific goals and provides a platform for an organization’s desired impacts and/or results.

Most traditional World Cafés to date have taken on the form of a Generative World Café. This kind of dialogue is characterized by the creation of many ideas on a certain question or topic. By fostering ‚out of the box‘  thinking in a collective environment, it can be used to generate new ideas as well as provide an environment for feedback from the participants as a whole.


Harvesting from EVAA Prague Thematic Café on Age-friendly Cities

The World Café is often  relegated to a role as a brain-storming method or a large-scale version of speed dating at conferences. Our experience has revealed a far greater potential of the use of the World Café than these helpful – but in our opinion limited – uses of the World Café.

World Café Europe has designed Decision-Making World Cafés which are aimed to create consensus for decision-making on a key strategic issue(s). By fostering alignment among stakeholders on a specific task or issue, priorities can be established among a list of potential options. This process results is a mutual feeling of ownership of a collectively developed strategic approach.

Sylt Zweck Ziele Botschaften

Emerging collective understanding of the vision, purpose and goals of a National Park in Germany

The ability to work across internal teams and with other partner organzations is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. World Café Europe has used the World Café to help participants discover ways of collaborating with each other  more effectively. This Collaborative World Café encourages systemic thinking, and by doing so, provides a platform for diverse representation of both participants and ideas, thus breaking down silo mentalities. It  fosters cooperation across new structures/functions and enables the participants to discover new ways for cross-sectorial collaboration.

The challenges which organizations and business face on a daily basis are becoming increasingly complex. We must discover new ways to learn together. Charles Handy advocated this approach with his „Wheel of Learning“. An Absorption Café provides the enviroment for a reflection process which is key to nurturing learning and renewal of an organization’s efforts. This kind of World Café makes complex issues accessible on an individual basis. Through the collective dialogue,  new horizons open to the participants to enable them to envision the whole, not just the parts of a challenge or issue. It encourages in-depth understanding on an individual basis and cultivates communication about policies, ideas and/or projects.

Reflection + bubbles

Reflecting about „Changing the Perception of Ageing“ at EVAA London Thematic Café                                                                          (c) Alex Rumford

The  Swarm Intelligence World Café is specifically aimed to tap the experience and wisdom of a group as a whole.  It provides the milieu for a group to collectively identify issues and map a terrain to realize a specific (and often complex) approach together. This World Café approach identifies ‚hot spots‘  which can be addressed by the group as a whole. By stimulating collaborative innovation, it uncovers new opportunities for further exploration. In addition, it offers a new approach to strategy formulation as a group process which enables the prioritization of issues in order to to successfully implement a strategy as an entire organization.

EVAA Bologna Word Cloud Italian

Word Cloud from EVAA Bologna about the issue of „Work over 50“    (c) Aip2 Italy

All of these kinds of World Cafés offer a broad horizon of opportunities for organizations of all sizes – whether non-profit,  social business or a for-profit enterprise – to untap the wisdom of the people in their organizations and discover new paths for action and sustainable activities.

Combining dialogue, movement and music to create a World Rhythmics Café®

Posted by & filed under Allgemein, European Voices for Active Ageing (EVAA), World Café Europe in general, World Rhythmics Café®.

Rhythmics + Hellerau

We just came back from Dresden (Germany) where the Rhythmics movement blossomed more than a 100 years ago. It was in the Hellerau Festival Theatre where Émil Jaques-Dalcroze  realized his vision to develop a ‚method to learn and experience music through movement‘.


Hellerau Festival Theatre

World Café + Rhythmics

World Café Europe’s first encounter with rhythmics and the Hellerau tradition was over 5 years ago. We were searching for a way to foster a feeling of collective spirit among the participants of the 1st World Café European Gathering which was going to be held in Dresden. Our inquires brought us to the Carl Maria von Weber Music Conservatory where we spoke with its director at the time, Prof. Dr. Stefan Gies. We had originally thought that a variation of voices like a choir might be the appropriate approach. „A choir is too hierarchical“ he initially said to us.  „I think that rhythmics might offer you just what you are looking for“. Prof. Dr. Gies introduced us to Christine Straumer, Professor for Rhythmics-Elementary Music Education  and Johannes Bönig, a docent for Body Awareness and Movement Improvisation both at the Music Conservatory. After listening to our ideas about integrating dialogue, movement and music inspired by the World Café, Christine and Johannes introduced us to rhythmics movement. We have been working together and experimenting with this conceptual approach  – what we have named the World Rhythmics Café® – ever since.

For the debut of our first version of a World Rhytmics Café®, we went back to the roots of the rhythmics movement. What an inspiring expereince it was to hold our  Body-Mind Café  in one of the practice rooms of the Hellerau Festival Hall!  It was here that our vision to hold a dialogue –  in the spirit of the World Café –  and integrate it with movement and music –  inspired by the rhythmics movement –  took on its initial form.

World Rhythmics Café

The development of the World Rhythmics Café® has continued in close collaboration with the International Rhythmics Workshop Dalcroze.  This yearly workshop serves as a platform to experiment with new approaches. Beginning in 2009, World Café Europe has cooperated with Christine Straumer and Johannes Bönig to create a series of World Rhythmics Cafés®, each on a new theme. For the 1ooth anniversary of the laying of the foundation of the Hellerau Festival Theatre,  a World Rhythmics Café called the „Wisdom of the Body“ ( World Rhythmics Café August 2011 Final ) was held. The artist Alexander Naumann from Dresden developed an complementary artistic concept. It provided a platform for the ‘collective intelligence’ of the participants to become visible through the creation of a unique artwork inspired by the Q2 codes.

q2 code WRC 2011  -

In 2012, the European Voices for Active Ageing project enabled World Café Europe to bring the World Rhythmics Café® to Strasbourg (France). With the Cercle des Seniors Actifs (Paris) and CREPS Strasbourg as partners, a concept was developed for „Maintain your Élan! – A World Rhytmics Caf鮓. Held in a gymnasium in the CREPS Strasbourg facilities,  this event was developed especially for adults aged 50+ to promote health through combined activities of verbal communication (World Café dialogue), music, physical movement and the senses. The World Rhythmics Café team together with Cercle des Seniors Actifs  formulated three goals for this World Rhythmics Café:

  • Break stereotypes about movement after the age of 50
  • Shift the mental model about movement after the age of 50 which is tolerant and demanding
    at the same time
  • Use the World Rhythmics Café  as a way to create social connections between the participants

Both the participant feedback, interviews and evaluation results confirm that the World Rhythmics Café® successfully addressed all the  established goals for this experience.

The question now is:  What’s next?

World Café Europe plans to build on the success of the EVAA Strasbourg World Rhythmics Café.  We returned to Dresden, where our journey began over 5 years ago, to plan the next development phase of the World Rhythmics Café®. World Café Europe will be using Dresden as a center for our on-going development efforts. We aim to deepen our experience with this approach to foster wellness in adults aged 50+.  Together with our Dresden-based partners, we hope to make this experience available to adults aged 50+ on a regular basis – first in Dresden and then in other locations. In addition, World Café Europe wants to continue our dedication to fostering “Best Practice“ by designing an accreditation course for the design and moderation of a World Rhythmics Café®. Together with Christine Straumer (Rhythmics Professor and Pianist), Johannes Bönig (Choreographer) and Harald Schluttig (videographer), World Café Europe will be working to realize this vision. A kick-off World Rhythmics Café is tentatively scheduled in Dresden for September 2013. Keep posted! Up-dates will be shared in our blog on an on-going basis.