"Community Cafés were the shining star for relationship development and conversation starters among staff and parents." - Parent Participant, Alaska Site
The goal of the community café is to develop and strengthen the protective factors in the lives of parents. This practice assumes that communities and individuals have what they need to identify their challenges and the ability to resolve them, so community cafes build upon the strengths of those in the room. Think of them as a compliment to the "looking outward" idea. Community cafes are a great relationship changer and bonder and allow parents to experience the value of making social connections by sharing experiences and learning from one another. There is no minimum or maximum number of cafes that are required, although one café per protective factor is the general rule. These decisions are made by parent leaders who design and facilitate (host) each café.
A café is designed around a series of guided conversations involving the protective factors. Set in a welcoming and inviting café-like environment, parents move between tables engaging in dialogue around a question or questions that encourage the exchange of ideas. Each café inspires parents to share, listen, and collaborate in order to “build community wisdom” around the protective factors. Cafes can also result in grass-roots efforts to change local policies and practices that improve the lives and children and their families. Such hands-on activities can foster leadership qualities in parents, which in turn can affect community change.
The Community Cafe is a strengths-based approach founded upon the principles of The World Café and the Illinois Family Partnership Parent Café frameworks. It is endorsed by the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Fund, and their Web site offers a comprehensive explanation and instructions regarding how to conduct a Community Café.
It is also worthwhile to point out that The World Café has been adapted for business application and is used as a way to engage stakeholders in strategic planning. So, in addition to using Community Cafes to strengthen protective factors in families, the principles of the café approach can be used as a tool for community planning and reevaluation and serve as a compliment to and take the "looking outward" idea deeper.