Large group events

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We have over 30 years’ collective experience in convening and facilitating large groups events, which are particularly effective in community groups, or collecting and sharing ideas and opinions from a large, disparate interest groups. Techniques include World Café, OST (Open Space) and designing and facilitating AI summits.

We’ve included a number of case studies on the site – we created a city-wide environmental vision for Hull; our Big Conversation for Liverpool City Council and Liverpool PCT used a World Café format, and the It’s Liverpool branding work we facilitated for Liverpool Vision was a large group World Café event.

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World Café

World Café stems from people noticing how much more engaged people are in informal conversations over a coffee at conferences and events than in formal sessions. At World Café sessions, we recreate that buzz, with an integral structure that asks people to have dynamic, strategic conversations, and helps create a ‘collective intelligence’.

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Participants discuss a question or issue in small groups around the café tables, moving to a new table at regular intervals. A table host remains, who summarises the previous conversation to the new table guests, allowing the cross-fertilisation of ideas. The session’s key themes are summarised at the end of the event, with a discussion about follow-up possibilities.

Both World Café and OST have been used in Big Local Trust areas Northwood, Windmill Hill, Halton, Oldham and Clubmoor.

Open Space (OST)

Most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, OST begins by letting the event’s participants create an agenda for themselves.

Typically the sponsor introduces the purpose and then the group creates the working agenda, as individuals post their issues and invitations to host a conversation in bulletin board style. Each individual ‘convener’ of a breakout session takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a space and time to meet, and then later, showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and recording its key points and outcomes. At the end of the process information from all the self-forming groups is collated and actions agreed.

All these strength-based approaches are highly adaptable. They can be used in meetings of two people and upwards to over 2,100 people. Behind them all sits the law of two feet, or mobility: ‘If you’re no longer learning or contributing, then move to a more productive place.’

Recent examples of the use of OST and World Café include our work on Hull City Council’s Green strategy, a Blackpool Council Leadership Summit, our Northern Schools Trust CPD programme, for Liverpool Vision on small business engagement and Liverpool’s Capital of Culture, Big Conversation on arts and wellbeing.


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