I've come back to Thailand for a week of work with FAO, facilitating the second workshop of a regional project on food consumer market research. The project involves researchers from four countries: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Yunnan Province of China. From the various interests of the national researchers, the objective was to come up together with a few common research problems that we might all resolve in the four different countries using the same research methodology.
To achieve this convergence, I proposed to use the world café method, which we implemented yesterday. World café involves breaking up into small groups seated at separate tables with a large sheet of paper on which to take notes. All groups discuss a common question separately. Participants then shift tables so as to share the findings between groups while one person - the table host - permanently stays at a table to report previous discussions to newcomers at the table. For more information, visit the KS-toolkit.
In fact, the convergence process happened naturally through the world café. The sheets of paper on the tables were scribbled with all the various ideas coming up from participants but the discussions being held at the three tables also allowed everybody to spot the common research problems that would be relevant for all four countries and the three food products we were working on.
When the three table hosts presented the synthesis of their table discussion, we naturally ended up with just one common research problem to be investigated using one conceptual framework, which was illustrated in a graph form on one table and in a matrix form on another table. The convergence process happened naturally during the world café, which made the plenary discussion afterwards much easier. Perhaps the very precise question for the café helped; it already asked participants to set their minds in a converging mode.
The lesson I have learned: the knowledge café method is not just a useful way to share experiences and results, it can also be used to converge different views in order to take a common decision.
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