Archive for the ‘the world café’ Category

What if…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

“The European Consumer Summit is a multi-stakeholder event organised every year by DG SANCO (Directorate General Health and Consumers). It gathers more than 400 participants in Brussels for 1,5 days. This event was previously organised as a ‘classical conference’: with lots of plenary presentations but not enough opportunities for participants to contribute and network. Not this year…

Our vision for the 2010 Summit was to get real policy output, including deliverables directly from participants and therefore much more interaction. The 2010 theme was “Services: access, fairness and choice” and the 6 workshops had quite different scopes:
• How can we help consumers to choose the right service provider?
• Web 3.0 – Challenges and Opportunities for Consumers in the internet of the future
• Bank Account Fees – How to ensure transparency and choice?
• The Adventure of Car Hire – Enforcement challenges
• The Green Energy challenge
• Going around in circles. How to improve urban sustainable mobility”

Consumer summit ik

This report is written by Carina Törnblom, official in the European Commission. I don’t know the right term for her function – sorry Carina. She has been part of the Art of Participatory Leadership training, offered by some of our Art of Hosting colleagues. Six other colleagues, of which I was one, were asked to host one of these six interactive workshops.

Her report continues:

Designing a successful event

In order to prepare the event, we set up an internal task force and connected this to a team of facilitators, practitioners of the Art of Participatory Leadership from inside and outside the Commission. Some of the workshops had more difficult starting conditions than others, e.g. high potential conflict due to very different opinions between participating stakeholder groups (industry and consumer organisations). Therefore facilitators were challenged to be very flexible and on the other hand to be enough convincing to ensure the interactivity in the workshops.

The outcome

On the D-day, each workshop was asked to address the challenges in the morning, the solutions in the afternoon and prepare 3 findings and 3 things for the Commission to do. This was reported on the second day (half day) in plenary followed by questions and answers session. In the Car Hire workshop industry agreed to involve consumer representatives and representatives of the European Consumer Centres network in the upcoming Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. In the Green Energy and Urban Transport workshops there was a call for more studies on consumer behaviour and multi-stakeholder working groups. In the area of Bank Account fees, the Commission will further explore how to improve transparency, including, for example, the idea of an independent on-line comparison tool, as well as financial education. The discussion on the internet of the future highlighted issues to be monitored closely, such as consumer friendly online contracts, privacy and data protection.


During the day, we could already feel from the buzz in the building that participants were in a great mood and the feedback was very positive. 95% of the participants were satisfied with the interactivity, the opportunity to voice their opinion and the increased understanding of other stakeholders’ position. One of the participants told us spontaneously that in nearly 12 years of being on the consumer circuit, this was by far the best conference he had ever attended.



In SANCO we are also very satisfied with the output, the willingness of our stakeholders to commit themselves in the suggested directions. This was not only an efficient and effective way of working but it represents what the European project is about: close cooperation and real dialogue.

This success was a truly collaborative effort, thanks also to our colleagues from other services. This was the first time that a more participatory approach was taken by the Commission in such a large conference with external stakeholders. It has not gone unnoticed and has been a real chance for the Commission to be looked at differently. Let’s hope this will inspire others so that it is just a start… What if the Commission would use this approach as a rule and not an exception? Would that not change how the citizens see us?

Called to heal old wounds

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

It is so fascinating when you see patterns, same themes arrising in different places at – almost – the same time!

One of these days I found myself sitting on a terrace in Paris, with Anne Stadler and George Por. Anne started talking about being called to some places to heal old wounds. The conversation went on with how we can see the whole web of relations. Is Europe able to see it’s whole history of what it has done in the colonies? Who knows that the North-West of the US was connected with the rest of the world through trade in the pré-history?

It seems that a huge re-uniting, a linking up is going on in so many places. Just a few days ago Juanita Brown, founder of the World Café, wrote about the recent European gathering in Dresden to some friends. Part of her email was:

Most exciting was the simultaneous hosting of eight local World Cafés throughout the greater Dresden area (on sustainable business, the arts, media, youth and education, etc.), which led key leaders in Dresden to begin envisioning Dresden as a “learning city” using conversational modalities like the World Café and others to engage citizens at all levels in conversations about the questions that matter most to them— the “world as café” came alive in Germany!

This is so consistent, Toke and Phil, with the wonderful work you all are doing in Columbus. Maybe at some point down the line Colombus and Dresden might become “sister learning cities”–depending on how it all unfolds in terms of the follow up and next steps with the folks in Dresden.”

And look what Phil – doing the Health Care Project in Columbus – wrote in response:

What is so wonderfully strange about this is that Dresden is Columbus’ European “sister city”.  We have certain municipal and cultural exchange relationships with Dresden and have adopted each other as sister cities.  I’m going to be in contact with our former Mayor who sits on our Foundation Board and has strongly supported our “hosting work” to learn more about this, because he was Mayor when this “adoption” took place.”

This is so consistent with one of the last things that happened in this Dresden gathering itself.  One of the last blog post I made while being there was about a Chinese man (sorry I forgot his name) who brought a gift from his country: a cloth with a view on his city: Hangzhou. And he told about his dream to connect cities, and inviting each other. He talked about appreciating the history of the people you will get to know and much more that could lead to a ‘wisdom civilisation’. He got a big applause!

And on the last afternoon in Dresden I participated in a conversation around the question: What is the highest potential of The World Café as a contributor to the development of large-group dialogue and collective leadership in Europe? One of us said that what is missing in Europe is a vision for Europe that is coming from the people, from ‘the inside’; instead of the politicians and other leaders. I noted down one practical idea raised by somebody else: setting up conversations between twin-towns!

Time seems to be ripe for this…

Reconnecting with wholeness

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Being part of the World Café community and the Art of Hosting community I see three movements happening, which can all be seen as a translation of a re-connecting with wholeness.

First of all we see how meaningful conversations become part of bigger processes, which lead to or are intended to foster community building. It goes beyond having now and then a meaningful conversation, but we see these meaningful conversations arise as an operating system in a community (like Kufunda and the Shire), a region (like in Ohio), a city. It is an expression of what Phil Cass came to see as the difference between ‘the individual voice’ and ‘the official voice’. People in their position tend to feel victimized by the big system they are working in, but when asked to act as an individual they are willing to engage in conversations, even when the outcomes are not sure. People tend to be resilient, positions are not!

A next development tha I see is that body, movement, stillness, meditation, martial arts gets bit-by-bit integrated in these ‘talking’ communities. It is another integration or re-connection that happens. It will lead us in the end to – what I call – a wholeness of knowing. An integrated knowing of mental, physical, emotional intelligence; together with what we learn from nature’s intelligence, systemic intelligence and so much more!

The last topic is about how to steward his kind of global movement, global communities. There is not one leader, and we see people all throughout the global netwerk taking up responsibilities. How to host this kind of living being? How to keep is somehow ‘on track’; meaning: congruent with it’s initial pupose, but flexible enough to include diversity and evolve over the years? We see both networks flourish on the friendships that are build over time. Isn’t this also a sign of reconnecting with wholeness, when work, life and voluntary engagementt is all one, and shared with each other?

The complementary part of reconnecting with wholeness is that each uniqueness can become visible and manifest. Then what is the difference between these two networks?

The Art of Hosting is more focused on the inner art of hosting, and trains people in and outside communities to become better hosts, which can then train other people. Something like martial arts in the field of hosting.

World Café has its own book and gets translated in more and more languages. it has a new website and is building up it’s online community through blogs and forums. It seems more outside oriented. Please add your thoughts on this!

World Café Europe in Dresden

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

As I announced in my previous blog post I will travel tomorrow night, by night train, to Dresden to join the first ever held World Café Europe gathering. I am asked to blog about it, which I would do anyway. I’m not sure yet if there will be time enough to post the blog entries also here, so here is the link to the blog that is set up especially for this event. Probably it will grow into an online space for all World Café practitioners in Europe.

At the moment there is nothing to read yet, but this will change soon!

The World Café and the world as café

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

What might be possible if, just for one day, people throughout a city engaged in conversations about the questions that matter most to them?

And what if they were joined by others from nearby cities and countries—indeed, by people from around the world—who would take the possibilities that emerged in those conversations back to their own communities?

That’s precisely what is happening in Dresden, Germany on May 3, the first day of a three-day gathering that truly models the “World as Café” at a local and regional level.

This is how Tom Hurley starts his article on the upcoming World Café Europe event, which will go on through May 4 and 5. I will join this international community of conversation hosts; and more: I will blog about it. Not on this blog – although you will find a link here – but on the blog that is set up special to report to the world what is going on there in Dresden.

I’m happy that my joint activity with Rainer of Pro Action Café in Brussels has led me to take part in this international event. If you happen to live in Belgium and want to drop by in one of these cafés you are more than welcome!

Being a Belgian myself, I make sure there is always a good lunch available!