Frames, Framing, and Designed Conversational Processes: Lessons From the World Café

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frame, context, World Café, dialogue, large group methods, Bateson

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In this article, we use the anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s conceptualization of framing and his theory of interpersonal communication process to explore how relational realities develop in designed conversational processes. In recent years, there has been a blossoming of interest in large group methods as a way of achieving whole-system change. Many of these techniques seek to construct alternative spaces or dialogic “containers” in which the usual routines and authority structures are suspended; as such, they require that practitioners give particular attention to issues of framing. By analyzing examples drawn from two World Café events, we attempt to clarify theoretical principles underlying dialogic approaches to organizational change. We also consider the practical implications inherent in Bateson’s ideas, particularly the possibilities they offer for enhancing the facilitator’s awareness of the context in which he or she is a participating member.

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The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, v. 49, issue 3, p. 388-405