In looking further into the themes emerging from the first World Cafe event, I found each group discussed a sense of community as important to engagement in their learning. This word appeared on all the poster sheets that served as recording instruments. It is an important theme and I chose to expand on it here. Community shares the same roots as common and communication. Communities hold things in common. Individual members of a community reflect a collective identity based on what is valued in that particular community. Value comes from the Latin to describe what is worthy or strong.
Elders play a role in communicating what is valued, what is worthy of being conserved, and what strengthens a community for ensuing generations. This frames what is important for the young to learn formally and informally within and from the community. What is to be communicated between generations emerges from this wisdom, but does not stand alone.
Communication is relational, two-way, and serves to educate both the youth and elders of a community. Reciprocity, trust, mutualism, and respect underpin this communication and lays the groundwork for education. Education comes from the Latin and means to draw from within, suggesting that young and old both hold knowledge required for survival of a community. Elders express what the community historically valued. The young offer energy and ideas needed to help forge the new path into the future. Communities serve as containers for communication and education.
Communities can be safe containers where we share. These can be spaces where we share feelings, feel vulnerable, and express what, individually and collectively, we do not know. Safe communities share values that make them strong and communicate what is worth retaining to build upon as the new enters. Communities conserve through the wisdom of elders and, at the same time, move forward with insight of the young. This is paradoxical, but it is what humans have seemingly done throughout recorded history and serves to balance the passion with compassion.
Education should reflect the community’s values, what it chooses to conserve, what it chooses to discard, and what replaces the discarded. Without a safe container to hold conversational tensions, it will be difficult to undertake this transformation. The World Cafe discussions identified community as an important factor in this transformation.