Unlike the World Café where a table host remains at a table for all of the rounds of small group conversation to welcome the new set of people and to carry key ideas, themes, and questions into the new conversations, the Knowledge Café does not have a table host or facilitator.
The reason for this lack of a table host is that one of the fundamental principles of the Knowledge Café is that everyone is equal.
Café table hosts, however well intentioned and however well briefed tend to dominate and try to control the conversations. They feel that is their job.
I have often seen hosts when they welcome new people to their table – totally take over and dominate the conversation right from the outset by explaining at great length what was discussed in the last round. Such a welcome is not a conversation but a monologue. It also focuses on what the facilitator feels is important and not the group and can totally distort the conversation.
People who are not natural facilitators and who have been given the task also feel that they need to do something when there is little to do and in worrying about not doing their job properly they don’t fully take part in the conversation.
Table facilitators or hosts are not needed.
A side benefit of not having table hosts is that it is not necessary to brief them as to their duties. A lack of such a briefing session makes running a Café so much easier if it is a one-off informal affair.
[Status: work in progress. I need to tidy up this post.]
This page is part of an online book on Conversational Leadership that I am in the process of writing.
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