This week I have been working to craft questions that will ignite my clients conversation around what really matters. One client, a large public elementary school in St. Paul, is preparing for a World Café for 125 family members on the topic of Family Engagement. World Cafe is a collaborative dialogue process in which people talk in small groups and explore questions for collective insight. Getting the right question is a key ingredient in collaborative work, and not as easy as it sounds.
Working with school leaders, teachers and parents over several weeks, we started with the question “What does engagement mean to you?” After more discussion, the question became “how can we strengthen the partnership between families and school staff?” Closer, but not quite there. Simmering for several more days we landed on this series of questions: “Imagine all our students show up at school fully engaged and excited to learn. Families had an important role in making that happen. What did you all do? What do you need from the school to make your vision happen?”
A good question is not something you can pull off a shelf. It needs to be crafted to be:
Clear: Is the question easy to understand and answer? How would you answer it?
Purposeful: Does the question move you towards the deeper intention for why you are coming together?
Focused: Does the question provide enough of a boundary for where you want to go?
Spacious: Does the question also offer an expansion without squeezing the conversation into a prescribed direction?
Invitational: Does the question use language that speaks to and invites those who will be engaged?
Evocative: Does the question take people to a place of greater vision and possibility?