Friday, March 03, 2006

Culture: adapting the Wold Cafe methodology in Thailand

The World Cafe is a participatory methodology, trying to get people to talk about questions that matter to them. Chaiwat Thirapantu describes how this methodology was used to facilitate a meeting of the People's Assembly in Thailand. He writes:

"In 2002, I came across the World Café when I attended the Authentic Leadership Workshop in Halifax, Canada. The Café was facilitated by David Isaacs and I enjoyed the concept of walking from table to table. At that moment, I realized that World Café would fit in a Thai context smoothly. In southern Thailand where I was born, people visit traditional coffee shops every morning for social and political conversation. This coffee shop assembly is called Sapa Ga fae."

After using the methodology in various situation, he was asked by the end of June 2005, to “People Assembly” with 3,000 participants of the opposition party. Using the world Cafe methodology, people talked in 375 small groups on the following questions:
  • From your heart, tell me why did you come here to join the People Assembly?
  • From your point of view, what are the most challenging issues that our society will encounter? Please name it only three issues, and tell us why they are so important.
  • Please tell me five strategic goals that you and Thai society should achieve in 2009.
  • Tell me from your heart. When you leave the People Assembly and return home, what do you want to do immediately? Why? And do you have any suggestion for Democrat party, what should they do as a political institution to guide Thai society to better future?

I remember I once introduced and facilitated a participatory method for a membership meeting of WERENGO in Takoradi (similar to the world cafe, with people working in small groups on a question and going around to the next table). The normal procedure was that the chairperson would lead the meeting and render accounts and few people would ask questions. Many new issues came up, and many members volunteered for various actions. It was a very new way and innovative way of meeting for this group. Actually, without sustained support, I'm not sure this would basically change the way of working of the network, but I know the network is active and its members contribute fees to cover the costs of a coordinator.


hoong said...

Hello Joitske,
The last 3 postings from you are about meetings. As usual I am getting side-tracked by reading too much :)

As I am busy trying to graps the advantages of Open Space and now I am looking at this Thai example of World Cafe -- I have not fully read/understood the World Cafe principles yet, therefore this is random thoughts -- I am more curious on the long term effects/results of various kinds of participatory methodology.

While I was working in the US with a large organization, I went to endless meetings. For example I was one of 300 participated in one meeting when Sotry-Telling concept first came out, or the OpenSpace method of creating conversations and ideas. In the beginning I went there with enthuasiam and put in lots of efforts and contributed. What kills me is the 'after effects' of those endless meetings. Nothing much happened. Most time we do not even have follow-up meetings minutes, follow-up publish results etc. etc. So, my enthusiam dies. Perhaps I worked for a funny kind of organization.

What I am trying to say here is not to discourage, or look-down on all these methods. What I think most important is to 'show' concrete results that the participants can 'feel', can 'see', and feel good they are part of it.

Soliciting 'ideas' from the masses is great, but do not 'waste' it.

Joitske said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for observing that the 3 posts are about meetings- I wasn't aware! I'm fully with you in your suspicion of too many meetings and workshops (in Ghana they say 'talkshops' if it's not leading to practical actions)- but hence my interest in communities of practice- practice at the core!!