What conversations are you called to convene?

The question leading us into the afternoon small group session today was “What conversation are you called to convene around the stewardship of the World Café? As the previous blogger (Ria Baeck) noted there were many wonderful responses, and I was drawn to the particular dialogue catalyzed by a question posed by Alain Gauthier: “What is the deeper spirit and practice of the World Café that would help us connect with other global communities that also care for the whole?”

We talked about how the struggle for identity and sustainability can often cut us off from one another, and paradoxically produce a kind of insularity that begins to constrict our growth. We noted the many effective methodologies in the field of dialogue and collective intelligence, and questioned to what extent we as emergent forests sharing common root systems of core values are part of the same collective tree.

Acknowledging the fact that different people need different kinds of entry points at different times for their own transformation, we wondered how we as supportive organizations can respect this need with a collaboration that acknowledges our commonality without collapsing real distinctions between us. What is the level of self-awareness and recognition of mutual interdependence that would enable one tree to point to another as a different but equally valuable part of the same forest?

It was noted that the World Café is an extraordinary example of an organization that has strong collaborative connections with other evolutionary groups, and as our conversation deepened we found that there are some very distinct principles and practices that support that quality.

One is the focus on personal relationship that has always driven global development of the Café, and another is the specific dialogic technique that engages the participant in a simultaneous holding of autonomy and communion. We start as individuals sitting around a table with our own point of view and opinions, and after a round or two of the café we find ourselves beginning to speak from and for the whole.

By leaving one person behind with each round to tell the first group’s story to the next, the conversation evolves from the personal to the collective automatically, loosening the hold of our individual egos and allowing us to enter the group mind almost without being aware of it. Similarly, the physical moving we do between rounds helps us to ‘move’ our point of view; the ‘scribbling’ on tabletops encourages us to release our personal insights into a generosity of spirit that would seed others with our wisdom.

Most importantly, the deep listening – to ourselves and to each other – that is so essential to the World Café practice creates in equal measure the kind of cohesion (really listening to ourselves) it takes to build & steward an organization, and the permeability (truly listening to another) that would allow it to respect its interdependent relationships with others. Both are attributes that will take the World Café into a future where all kinds of social structures will evolve by necessity to just this kind of conscious collaboration in order to survive.

We can probably all profit by learning how to best hold the balance of cohesion and communion in any number of relationships we might have, and one of the things that came out of this conversation was a commitment by one of the women in the group to take this question as dialogue into the other emergent organizations she works with. She has promised to post the answers that come from those discussions here.

Any of you who would like to do the same in your own organization are very welcome to do so as well, and/or if you have any other thoughts on this subject, please, you are welcome to share them by using the ‘comments’ function below.

~ Amy Lenzo


2 Responses to What conversations are you called to convene?

  1. Alan Stewart says:

    While participating in a lively conversation with Team Asia group yesterday I mentioned how taken I was with your piece here.

    As an exquisitely written overview of the conduct of a Café it brought me to a heightened awareness of the significance of moving between tables.

    I was also very drawn to the notion of ‘interdependency’ both among participants in a particular Café and also among similar ‘emergent organizations.’

    Hearing that my friend Peggy Holman is present at the gathering led me to see what she may have contributed. To my delight she had, in precisely the vein I would have wished, viz indicating that she and others were present to ‘speak’ for other conversational processes.

    For I have long believed that World Café, OST, AI – the ones that I am most familiar with – all ways to create space in which people converse, with the starting point that ‘we are here to treat each other well.’

    An opportunity to demonstrate this arose from a lovely invitation from Sheila Damodaran to facilitate a workshop – as it happened, in the Supreme Court – in Singapore last month.
    See: http://www.lopn.net/ConversationswithAlan.html

    I believe that these processes are manifestations of a way of being, rather than ‘tools.’ And propose that they are more than ‘remembering’ what occurred around ancient campfires. Without having personal experience of these (smile) would you agree that it is unlikely that total strangers would have been treated with the respect that everyone present in a TWC, OST or AI gathering is accorded?

    In my opinion people who have the privilege of working through these processes have much to learn from each other on how to be most effective in fostering choices about ways of being which enable people and communities to not only survive, to thrive.

    For how else other than through these conversational approaches are core issues such as living with a sense of abundance rather than deficit and how to tackle corruption systemically to be accomplished?

    Alan Stewart, PhD Multimind Solutions Hong Kong

  2. amylenzo says:


    Thanks so much for your appreciation and for your wonderfully thoughtful comments.

    I’m glad you are picking up on the ideas of connection & collaboration between the different organizations who care about dialogue and conversations that matter – as you suggest she might, Peggy had some wonderful responses to this blog topic, which we videotaped as a short clip. As soon as we can get the footage downloaded and edited I will post it here.

    Today we had another small group session – Peggy called the question “Convening the Conveners’ or ‘the Community of Communities’. identifying communities of people all around the world who care about dialogue and foster conversations that matter. I’m going to blog a bit on it now, and there will be more happening on the subject. We’ll be sure to keep you (and anyone else who is interested) posted! Your involvement would be wonderful.

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