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I have been using the same strategic planning process for organizations for the past 15 years. You would think that I would get creative. Well yesterday I got wild and crazy and changed my process. I added a cafe. And it was a very small non-profit, only 9 people but the cafe was wonderful and powerful Here is what I used to do and what I did yesterday. The results were fantastic.

Old process over about 6 hours:

Introduce process
1) Affinity process to capture everyone's thoughts about what needed to be focused on
2) Group process to flush out any other ideas or suggestions that may have been missed in the affinity process
3) Group process for prioritization and assessing performance on each focus
4) Opportunity map outcomes
5) Group process to explore opportunities to work on and time frames
6) Assign teams to develop tactical plans to address opportunities
7) Tactical team develop action plans and set time lines
8) Group reflection process and adjourn.

So here is how I changed the process and I loved it. First I asked that the whole system be in the retreat. We had board members, a customer, grant writer, community member, and contractors.

1) Introduction in group setting
2) Introduce the process
3) Pose the question
4) Three cafe tables with three people each, start the cafe
5) Three rounds of conversation each 20 minutes
6) Returned people to original table and asked them to capture the main themes at each table. 20 minutes
7) Harvested main themes in group
8) Group process for prioritization and assessing performance on each focus
9) Opportunity map outcomes
10) Group process to explore opportunities to work on and time frames
11) Assign teams to develop tactical plans to address opportunities
12) Used affinity process to capture everyone’s values, and group into value titles
13) Developed the values for the non-profit from this harvest
14) From conversation developed mission for the non-profit
15) Created list of what the non-profit is and is not for them to develop a story about their organization and it role in the community
16) Provided a foundation for a vision statement to be drafted.
17) Reflection session and adjourn

And all of this in 5 hours. It was the most productive planning session I have ever had and I believe that is in no small part due to driving them into conversation early and the power of conversation transformed the session.


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I looked you up on this community after hearing you participate in several forums at the last Pegasus Conference--loved your contributions.
I am just starting to explore how Systems Thinking/World Cafe can be used in non-profits. Not neccesarily for an entire strategic plan, but for particular issues. In one non-profit, we are facing the issue of an aging membership and looking for ways to engage the younger members of the community to join. (This has been a problem of this organization for a couple of decades, so definitely qualifies as a long standing problem systems thinking might help with. ) Any particular hints on how to entice the younger generation?
In another task I've been recruited for, I have the opportunity to create a workshop on leadership for young women. I'd like to introduce them to the World Cafe technique--would the best way be to have them participate in one on a topic of interest, then give them the technique as a 'take away'? That's what I was thinking, but would like your perspective since you've consulted on this and I'm just a beginner. Thanks.
Peg, I have been thinking about a similar situation at a dear friends ELCA church where he is an interim paster. The congragation is in a rich multi-cultural setting but has never drawn in the community.

I have suggested that they create a series of multi-generational World Cafe's to draw in the local community into a conversation on integrating the local community. There is so much that can be done. Questions are wide ranging and depend on what is most pressing in the local community. Could be "How do we bring the rich mixture of local cultures together through multi-generational dialogue?" OR "What can we do to build (other concepts can go here) our community?" Or many other questions. This concept can be adapted to the small non-profit. They could sponser said conversations. The key is to draw in multi-generations to the cafe around a topic that is important. You can also use these dialogues as training grounds for young women or others who you would like to bring up to spead in the art of dialogue.

I hope that you keep me in the loop as you move this concept forward. Very exciting.



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