GPS for successful project management: The ‚EVAA Epicenter‘

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

When an event runs really smoothly and the participants are in a setting where they can dedicate 100% of their energy and creativity to participating  in a dialogue, you know that a group of dedicated people have been working hard to make this a reality.  Careful attention to these issues  provides the platform for a dialogue which has a sustainable impact.

It was clear when the  European Voices for Active Ageing (EVAA) project was conceived that both content and infrastructure were going to play a key role in its success. For over 18 months, World Café Europe had been in discussion with Dr. Janet Hively, a prize-winning gerontologist (Boston) and Moira Allan of the Cercle des Seniors Actifs (Paris) about the thematic emphasis of a series of participatory dialogues on the topic of fostering active ageing in adults aged 50+.  The selection of 6 topics informed by research in the field and inspired by other successful efforts throughout the world which foster active ageing.  Based on these topics, World Café Europe identified 6 European partners to cooperate on the design and facilitation of  Thematic Cafés focused on active ageing.  Both the EVAA concept and partners were established. Now on-going attention to project management and infrastructure planning during the course of the EVAA project was needed to provide an optimal setting  for all these 6 dialogues throughout Europe.

World Café Europe recognized that planning the infrastructure across 6 countries in 6 languages would be a logistical challenge. It was fortunate that first of the 6 Thematic Cafés took place in Bilbao together with our partner Innobasque which had previous experience with hosting World Cafés. This cooperation enabled World Café Europe to showcase „Best Practice“ to the rest of the EVAA project partners – many of whom had never experienced a World Café previously. It also provided a key baseline for the preparation of the other 5 Thematic Cafés which were to take place in a short  timeframe of 8 weeks.

This is why the ‚EVAA Epicenter‘ – the GPS of the EVAA project – came to be:

The EVAA ‚Epicenter‘


 After the successful EVAA Bilbao Thematic Café, two full days were dedicated to create an integrated overview of the  necessary project management and infrastructure for the next 5 Thematic Cafés. The EVAA Bilbao Thematic Café served as a reference as the issues were discussed and mapped out. Flipchart paper and various sized post-it notes served to visualize the results emerging from these discussions. Like a detailed mind-map, the central tasks in each of the key project categories – Thematic Café design, infrastructure planning, public relations/communication, results harvesting/analysis, project documentation and project finance/accounting – were discussed, worked out and outlined in detail. The results of this reflection was the ‚EVAA Epicenter‘ which served to guide all the pre-Thematic Café planning efforts in the months to come.

By dedicating time for reflection and discussion early during the course of the EVAA project, World Café Europe was able to identify detailed  project management and infrastructure planning issues. In addition, this mapping process had other unexpected value-addeds for the EVAA project: it visualized the inter-connectedness of tasks across functions to support a fluid project management as well as uncovered additional areas for attention during the course of the project development. As a result, the ‚EVAA Epicenter‘  served as a kind of GPS for World Café Europe’s on-going efforts during the EVAA project.

There are  software applications which assist project management of this complexity. However the ‚EVAA Epicenter‘ was a helpful low-tech version which worked efficiently. As a result, ‚epicenters‘ for World Café Europe’s future projects will certainly adorn the walls of our offices to inspire effective project management and infrastructure planning in the years to come.

European Voices For Active Ageing 2012 – it has been a long journey!

Posted by & filed under World Café Europe - EVAA Bilbao, World Café Europe in general.

It’s been over a year since World Café Europe submitted an application to  European Commission’s EACEA Europe for Citizens Programme  (Action 1: Active Citizens for Europe) to bring adults aged 50+ together  using participatory dialogue  to explore how to promote active ageing  throughout Europe.

Eight months ago World Café Europe  received the official notification of the acceptance of our European Voices for Active Ageing proposal. Work began immediately to plan for the start of the project in January 2012. Now after six months of preparation, the first fruits of World Café Europe’s cooperation with six European partners took place in Bilbao (Spain) with great success last week.

But the story of this project began almost four years ago at a Visioning  Council  which Bolton Anthony of Second Journey was organizing in Hamburg. I assisted in the design of a World Café which was part of this Visioning Council. I also did graphic recording  of a number of the presentations made during the event. Dr. Janet Hively was one of those speakers. Janet admired the graphic recording which I later sent to her with an invitation to come to Munich next time she travelled to Europe.  A year later she was travelling in Europe again. During a dinner at my home in Munich, we talked about her passion of fostering adult leadership. Of course I spoke about my passion for participatory dialogue .Why not address the issue of Active Ageing using the World Café? The seed for the European Voices for Active Ageing was planted that evening in Munich.

The goal of the long-term strategy of  World Café Europe e.V. is a Europe in which citizens are actively involved in finding solutions to tackle the major challenges of our times. Towards this end, it organizes World Cafés all across the EU on a broad spectrum of topics with targeted audiences. The European Voices for Active Ageing project aims to be a driving force to promote an optimistic approach to ageing, offering fresh opportunities and new perspectives for society.

In partnership with the association Old’Up based in Paris, WCE organized a prototype World Café to enable older adults aged 70 to 95 to discuss their views on active ageing. Based on this successful experience and inspired by the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity, WCE is sharing  insights developed through this World Café with 6 age-friendly European organizations. The ideas  of 50+ adults on the topic of active ageing will provide a platform to offer a fresh perspective on the opportunities of the demographic shift which is currently taking place throughout the European Union.

The European Voices for Active Ageing project will organize 6 thematic cafés in 6 European countries on 6 different active ageing topics. The thematic cafés will focus on the following active ageing  challenges: health, age-friendly communities, wellness, civic engagement, work + life planning,  creative arts + expression , intergenerational fairness and social innovation. Each thematic café will invite 80 aged 50+ stakeholders of different nationalities to participate in 4-hour conversations on these topics. The project aims to create aspace for intercultural and participatory dialogue for 50+ adults to discuss active ageing and, as a result, formulate their opinions on these key challenges facing Europe. The ideas and suggestions from each thematic café will be collected, analyzed and summarized in order to propose concrete policy recommendations to policy-makers at the local, national and European level.