What is a Knowledge Café? Is it a form of meeting, a workshop or something quite different?
This is how Wikipedia defines a meeting:
A meeting is a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement.
Meetings may occur face to face or virtually, as mediated by communications technology, such as a telephone conference call, a skyped conference call or a videoconference.
Thus, a meeting may be distinguished from other gatherings, such as a chance encounter (not convened), a sports game or a concert (verbal interaction is incidental), a party or the company of friends (no common goal is to be achieved) and a demonstration (whose common goal is achieved mainly through the number of demonstrators present, not verbal interaction).
Based on this Wikipedia definition, one might be tempted to say that a Knowledge Café is more of a meeting than it is anything else.
A Knowledge Café has a purpose, and that purpose is addressed through face to face interaction.
But a Knowledge Café is unlike a typical business meeting in many ways.
- It is by invite only.
- It is less formal.
- It has no agenda.
- It has the minimum of structure.
- Unlike a meeting is not called or scheduled, it is hosted.
- The people taking part in a Café are participants. They are not attendees or delegates.
- It does not have a chairperson or a facilitator – it has a host.
- As far as is possible everyone is equal.
- There are no minutes, and although there is always a purpose, there are no predetermined or desired outcomes. The outcomes are emergent.
- The Café is not about decision making, reaching an agreement, obtaining consensus or assigning actions to people.
- The Café is also different in that the room or place in which it is held is designed or laid out to be a social space.
So it cannot be called a meeting or even a workshop.
Fundamentally it is about making sense of something – better understanding the world, ultimately, to make better decisions and to innovate.
Great care and attention to detail are given to ensure that people can naturally engage in conversation: small round tables versus large ones or long rectangular ones: people seated equally distant from each other and within touching distance.
When a small group of people meets for coffee, lunch, dinner or any social occasion, it is often called a gathering – not a meeting.
The Knowledge Café is more a gathering or a get-together than it is a meeting and the café metaphor is entirely apt.
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