The context for the Stewardship Dialogue

Earlier, I wrote about the purpose of the World Cafe Stewardship Dialogue taking place August 25-29 in Marshall, California. Now I want to provide some context for the gathering.

Since the World Café was born in 1995 during a two-day dialogue among the Intellectual Capital Pioneers – a story you can find in The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter (Berrett-Koehler, 2005) – tremendously exciting developments have taken place:

The World Café has been used by hundreds of groups in settings as disparate as large multinational corporations, small nonprofits, government agencies, health facilities, community-based organizations, and educational institutions.

Café hosts and conveners are learning that the core design principles of the World Café (see, for example, can be applied in many different ways – and that the process resonates with traditional practices of dialogue and deliberation in many different cultures.

An international community of inquiry and practice is forming, comprised of people around the world committed to awakening and engaging collective intelligence through conversations about “questions that matter.” Participants live and work in a growing number of countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. They include business leaders, government officials, nonprofit managers, social entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens who are stepping forward to play key roles in stimulating positive change in their communities. Through their efforts, innovative approaches to health care, education, socially responsible business, environmental protection, social welfare, conflict resolution, sustainable development, and many other critical issues are being discovered and implemented. Wonderful stories about some of these efforts can be found online at and

Youth and elders together are using the World Café to create the container for multi-generational dialogues that heal the fragmentation of modern life, nurture collective wisdom, and foster intergenerational collaboration for the common good.

Key practitioners are connecting to others who recognize the deeper patterns and possibilities at the heart of the World Café—including those who promote dialogue as a core practice to create value in our lives and work, those committed to emerging forms of process-based activism, and those involved in critical issues requiring collective intelligence across traditional boundaries for co-evolving innovative paths forward.

Now, after a decade of development, the World Café is at a threshold. In my view, several factors make this a truly pivotal moment in the evolution of this global movement:

The creation of the World Café website ( ) and the publication of The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter has stimulated both widespread experimentation with the World Café process and principles and rapid growth in the World Café global network.

Key individuals in numerous countries and a wide range of fields are ready to move into new roles as leaders and stewards of the World Café.

Dynamic regional networks of World Café hosts, conveners, and champions are developing in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, co-founders of the World Café who have been instrumental in guiding its growth and development, are at the stage in their lives where “stepping to the rim” and encouraging the next generation of leadership is an appropriate next step, even as they continue actively supporting the work.

The World Café Community Foundation, created in 2001 as a legal entity that locates the World Café in the “gift economy,” is available as a vehicle to which contributions to the work can be entrusted and used in service of the whole.

In light of these developments, the World Café Stewardship Dialogue is an important gathering of World Café colleagues from around the world who want to take an active part in designing, leading, and stewarding the development and evolution of the World Café. All are playing key roles in a wide range of fields and regions. Together they sense that the potential of the World Café on a broad scale is just beginning to be realized—and that the community of people engaged with it is poised to take a quantum leap.

Stay tuned for news on the conversations that unfold.

Thomas Hurley


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