By Ryan Hyland, Rotary staff
Even before the World Cafe session started today, the room was filled with excitement, with people hugging and laughing. It took a few minutes for former Rotary Peace Fellow Cherine Badawi to quiet the 240 people in the room at the Rotary World Peace Symposium in São Paulo, Brazil.
World Cafe, a structured conversation style that aims to spark open and intimate discussion, is modeled to resemble the atmosphere of a cafe. Instead of having white tablecloths, the small round tables were covered with plain white paper and colored markers that attendees could use to express themselves.
The process included three 15-minute rounds of conversation. Each round started with a question about peacebuilding: What is foundational in my commitment to peace? How do we partner in peace? What might we do together to partner for peace? After each round, participants moved to a different table.
Past Rotary Foundation Trustee Carolyn E. Jones called it “speed dating for peace.”
Badawi, who facilitated the World Cafe session, said it was a new and innovative way for peace fellows and Rotary members to collect information and share ideas.
“In the past, we’ve been passive recipients of information rather than being able to engage in building new possibilities and peace projects,” she said. “World Cafe allows people to share personal stories and everybody’s voice to be heard.”
One table had the idea of a Rotary peace fellow consultancy agency, inspired by and modeled after WASRAG. The group would help clubs and districts partner with other NGOs on peace initiatives. Peace fellow consultants would also advise on peace-related grants. After only 15 minutes of dialogue, this tangible idea may change how Rotary promotes peace. “I think the entire energy of the symposium was changed because of what happened here,” said Badawi.