A couple of weeks ago through the Center for Narrative and Conflict Resolution, I organized a Town Hall Meeting at George Mason University about the events of the day. I framed the discussions about the recent attacks in the form of the question "Barbarism v Civilization?"
Many people appreciated having the space to come together and consider the events of the day. One texted me during the event and another walked out because they were seeking a more intimate and emotional space in which to discuss how the attacks.
In response, I organized, again through the Narrative Center, a World Café. Because this event seemed to be an even greater crowd pleaser, I wanted to share the format to encourage others to adopt this mode of discussion in your schools, community groups, churches or even offices.
ISIS World Café Considering our Experiences of and Responses to Violent Extremism
The World Café style event enables participants to speak together in shifting groups about their personal experiences and the impact of the recent violence in Europe and the Middle East.
No one needs to be an expert on anything for the World Café structure to bring forth profound and surprising conversations.
This kind of meeting is a response to the lack of public spaces we have for discussing today's events.
While TV and the Internet brings us news, it cannot provide connection or the support of thinking out loud and together. Schools have the structure for that kind of conversation, but the pressures of coursework and outside activities often pull us away from these important and sometimes uncomfortable discussions.
In this space, students and others bring authentic concerns, questions and uncertainty as well as ideas.
World Café's have often led to breakthrough ideas and future initiatives. Your participation is important even if you are not sure how you will contribute.
The events are guided by several questions. The ones below are being used at our event at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. People sit in tables of 4-5 with a large piece of paper all drawing their thoughts. In 15 minutes the tables change except for one anchor who tells the new group where the last group left off. Then the discussion starts from there. This format generates interesting discussions.
The point is to make the event cozy. We had candle lit tables, treats, and markers on the table for people to draw their thoughts and trace the conversation. Ours went very well. People wanted to do more of them and bigger ones. They seem to be a productive response to the alienation created by technology and our speedy lives.
If your organization has funding, as a scholar and practitioner of conflict resolution, I am available to come lead the cafe (please contact me here) or you can find more information in Juanita Brown's book, The World Cafe.