World Café – a restorative practice

Published: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

This is a blog by our Trustee Belinda Hopkins.


Diagram of world cafe processFor our first ever annual conference, we want to ensure that participants get a sense of what ‘restorative’ means not just from keynote speakers, panel discussions and workshops but from their experience throughout the day. 

As well as the speeches, panel discussions, engaging workshops and stimulating coffee and lunch breaks we are also going to have a World Café – a conference ‘technology’ that exemplifies restorative values and processes. 

A World Café recognises and values all of this richness and respects it. People are invited to sit in small circles and everyone present has the opportunity to share their wisdom, experience and expertise. Even those with less of any of these will bring the important gift of curiosity and the skill of asking questions that more experienced practitioners may have forgotten and need reminding about. 

Restorative Circle Process ensures that everyone is given space to speak, in turn, without interruption. This enables all to feel valued, included and respected. Everyone’s voice is honoured, and together the group explore the questions put to them by the World Café facilitator. There are no right or wrong answers – what matters is the collective experience of sharing thoughts, experience and ideas. This is based on the World Café assumptions:

  • The knowledge and wisdom we need are already available to us here.
  • Our collective insights will grow from honouring each unique contribution, connecting ideas and noticing deeper patterns and themes.

World Café is usually organised around three discrete but connected questions, each one enabling the group to go deeper in their exploration of ideas. The groups dissolve and move so that for each new question a group is re-constituted and everyone shares the wisdom and ideas gleaned from their previous group. This sharing helps the new group to learn from many more people and really dive deep into the issues. The design of the questions helps ensure this deeper more analytical thinking. Again – no right or wrong – but new and more interesting ways to think about the issues of the day.


All those participating are invited to:

  • Focus on what matters
  • Contribute your thinking
  • Speak your mind and heart
  • Listen to understand
  • Link and connect ideas
  • Listen together for insights and deeper questions
  • Play, doodle and draw

This last instruction is one of the exciting things about a World Café. The small table around which the delegates are sitting is covered with a paper table cloth. Each table will have a jar full of coloured felt tip pens which everyone is invited to use to draw pictures, mind maps, diagrams, doodles – anything that brings to life the key ideas, the patterns and links between them. When people move to another group the table cloth stays behind, as does one volunteer who will explain the cloth to the new members of the group before they share what they remember from their previous group. And so new pictures and ideas are added, and the tablecloth becomes a work of art.

As well as an opportunity to share ideas and deepen understanding, the World Café is also designed to stimulate people to action. The final question is explicit. It enables commitments to be made. Perhaps accountability buddies and support networks are identified. People feel motivated and inspired – and leave the conference with fresh energy and enthusiasm. 


You can take part in this exciting World Café process at our Annual Conference on the 25th of May.

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