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World Café: A Celebration of Diversity

Posted on February 5, 2016 in General

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Last November, the Pennswood community gathered to recognize and celebrate diversity at a World Café event, organized and hosted by the Pennswood Village Diversity Task Force. Residents, staff, board, and guests came together to answer one stimulating question about family, traditions, learning, culture, and more.

Marsha Wesley Coleman, Director of Leadership Development and Training at Friends Services for the Aging, facilitated the workshop, leading the group with the question “What family traditions and cultures have been most impactful to your life’s journey?”

IMG_2767World Café is a powerful social technology and methodology for engaging people in conversations that matter. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

IMG_2811Groups of about 6 people sat around tables for lunch, and discussed their own answers to the question. Tables were covered in paper for participants to use as a creative outlet, and to record thoughts and ideas they found particularly profound.

Afterward, a spokesperson from each table shared with the larger group what was discussed at their table. Everyone who attended the event left with several notable takeaways, and a broader understanding of those who are part of their community.

IMG_2777During the discussions, Marsha’s colleague, Chrissie Bonner, a graphic facilitator and owner of the Illustrating Progress organization, created a graphic representation of the many topics touched on. She used these topics to create a unique and colorful mural that now hangs in the dining room for all to see. It serves as a regular reminder of what went on during the event, and shares ideas with those who were not able to attend the event.

“There are many commonalities to be found, even when you don’t know who they might be,” says Lynn Waymon, a resident who participated in the event. “It’s fun to discover who people are.”

Lynn decided to attend the event to meet more people, and was delighted to find that most of the other participants at her table shared many traits, despite their obvious differences.

IMG_2779The idea to host this event came from a few residents who voiced their opinion at an “Open Space” meeting. Open Space meetings create an environment for residents to voice concerns and offer their ideas. They wanted to have conversations where residents could tell their stories, and enrich their understanding of cultures with which they may not be familiar.

Topics that participants found most notable included a strong sense of family structure, tradition and celebration, cooking, and manners and customs.

“At our table, everyone had a background in work ethic,” says Better Aptaker, another Pennswood resident who participated in the event. “We all had a positive family experience, and there was a lot of emphasis on family connection.”

The World Café event was a successful opportunity for the community to learn more about one another. Many residents mentioned that they were surprised at some of the things they learned about one another, and were grateful for the experience. Many felt they became closer as a community. Several residents also mentioned that they were surprised at what many staff members had to share, creating a stronger connection among staff and residents.

IMG_2766Wilma Casella, another Pennswood resident says, “Even though everyone came from different backgrounds and have had different experiences, I was struck by the common humanity in all of us.”

She added, “There is always something to learn here at Pennswood. Living here for three and a half years has taught me that as long as you keep alert and stay involved, there are constant learning experiences.”

“My favorite part about this event is that afterward, people are still talking about it,” said Marsha, the facilitator. The event was able to act as a catalyst that opened the door to constructive conversation in all parts of the community. “People are continuing to ask questions that make the whole community open to different cultures.”

For more information about diversity at Pennswood Village, give us a call today at 866-740-4977.