Have you heard about something called, Community Café, and wondered what the heck “it” is? Here’s your primer.
At its core, Community Café is a prescribed format for hosting large group discussions. Based on the World Café Method, the Community Café is a smaller scale forum for group discussions that maintain the seven design principles of the World Café Method. These seven principles lay out the “rules” for these constructed conversations:
1. Set the context: for successful conversations, you must have a clear purpose and parameters to enable constructive discussions.
2. Create hospitable space: you need to create a safe, comfortable and inviting space for open and honest conversations.
3. Explore questions that matter: construct questions that are relevant and that will explore the objectives you wanted to achieve.
4. Encourage everyone’s contribution: café conversations need full participation even if someone only feels comfortable listening to the conversation.
5. Connect diverse perspectives: mix up small group discussions with other groups to share differing perspectives and common themes.
6. Listen together for patterns and insights: just as important to sharing your ideas it is equally as important to actively listen. Make connections between ideas.
7. Share collective discoveries: sometimes called “harvest” share small group conversations with the larger group to capture similar themes, patterns and insight.
Community Cafés are planned, led and monitored by individuals and community members who go through an orientation to learn the components of this approach. They learn the World Café principles for hosting can relate to the participants and build on the assets of their neighborhood, group-building traditions, customs, visuals, foods and music from the cultures represented in each café to help to ensure cultural relevance. Meaningful relationships develop as individuals and community partners participate as equals in a café series that sustains a value of reciprocity.
The Community Café model has been used by Strengthening Families organizations to empower participants; many of which are parents. Families are strengthened when communities support the building of social capital. Reciprocity, or opportunities for families to contribute to their community, is essential to a supportive and healthy community; residents have the opportunity to contribute and a culture of reciprocity develops. (www.cssp.org)
Strengthening Families organizations using the Community Café model construct conversations as they relate to the Strengthening Families Protective factor framework, published by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. The five protective factors at the foundation of Strengthening Families are characteristics that have been shown to make positive outcomes more likely for young children and their families, and to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
The Community Café works well for Strengthening Families organizations because it builds on the foundation that parents and communities want to do right by their children. The framework builds on individuals’ strengths and empowers participants to support each other and build stronger communities in the process.