Democratic World Café


The challenge in fostering a democratic culture within private companies revolves around reconciling the inherent tension between maintaining an apolitical stance and acknowledging the political interests of both employers and employees. This complexity is heightened by the influence of lobbying and the diverse personal values held by individuals within the company. Particularly in large multinationals, significant resources are often invested in lobbying, creating a potential misalignment between the company’s practices and the democratic ideals of its workforce. Engagement in direct civic activities, especially political aspects, is typically limited in the private sector.

This challenge extends to how companies navigate their role in society, balancing economic goals with social responsibilities. As employees, particularly the younger generations, seek organisations aligned with their values, companies must integrate these values into their corporate culture. Presently, companies of all sizes are incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, such as organising marathons, offering workshops, or allowing employees to donate bonuses to societal causes. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity to embed democratic values into every facet of corporate life. As the corporate landscape evolves, addressing these challenges will be crucial for companies to build trust, attract talent, and contribute positively to societal well-being.


The Private Sector is often viewed as apolitical or relatively hesitant to engage with political issues. Contrary to the common perception of political engagement as indoctrination, from our perspective, it serves as a means to foster idea facilitation, civic involvement, and a sense of civic responsibility. Recognizing political engagement as a positive force is crucial, challenging existing undemocratic norms and paving the way for the emergence of a comprehensive democratic culture. By encouraging political engagement within the private sector, we aim to reshape perceptions and contribute to the development of a corporate environment that values diverse perspectives, active civic participation, and a commitment to democratic principles.

As the title of the proposal signifies, the methodology of the “World Café” will be implemented. The World Café methodology is a collaborative and participatory approach to group discussions and idea generation. It involves participants moving between small, informal group settings to discuss a central topic or question, with each group being moderated by an individual from a third party, such as a facilitator from either the Public Sector or an Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the trusted parties or entities that sign a data protection agreement and agree on the collaboration terms before proceeding to actual endeavours. There has been an increased trend of involving public, non-governmental and private in joint endeavours, such as charity projects or wide-scale CSR-related opportunities, and offering an official platform for those parties to collaborate on democratic issues is an opportunity to add value to already-existing partnerships. Each group contributes insights and ideas, and participants switch groups periodically, building upon previous discussions. The process encourages diverse perspectives, fosters open dialogue, and promotes the exploration of a topic from various angles, leading to a rich exchange of ideas and collective knowledge. All the participants subsequently assemble, which is followed by the presentation and discussion of all the different proposals, followed by discussion, assessment and implementation.

However, this interdepartmental approach is only applicable when cooperating with larger enterprises. Therefore, we have developed another approach with the implementation of the World Café within Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Instead of inviting workers from different departments within the same enterprise, we would seek to bring together workers from different enterprises, ideally from the same sectors (e.g. agricultural, retail … ), or with different SMEs located within the same geographical district. This would allow the World Café to be implemented for all sizes of enterprises, not only being reserved for those large enough to encompass several differing departments.

To eliminate the possibility of fears arising on the side of the Private Sector participants, we form the participating groups by inviting members from different departments presented in a company. If people from different departments with varying scope of responsibilities and backgrounds gather together to engage in specific problem-solving activities, the participants are expected to feel freer to share specific opinions on a certain topic. We encourage a non-violent communication approach to further eliminate any potential interpersonal conflicts and fears stemming from reprisals from workers higher up the hierarchy.

The target group for the Democratic World Café for the Private Sector would be both SMEs and larger companies, with the methodology being scalable, grounded and executable on several different types of enterprises. Even so, the proposal involves several different stakeholders. Clearly, the enterprises themselves play a crucial role in addition to the employees, but the facilitators of the World Café should be either from the Public Sector or an NGO unaffiliated to the enterprise(s) in question.


Given the common perception of the private sector as politically and socially disconnected from society, our expectation is that the proposed innovative tool will foster political engagement among employees. Existing studies affirm that satisfied, engaged employees who feel integral to shaping their environment tend to perform better and act as innovative stakeholders (Christen et al., 2006), thereby positively influencing economic development and innovation.

Moreover, the introduction of Democratic World Cafés enhances the appeal of private sector employers to younger generations deeply committed to societal causes and eager to address longstanding challenges. Recognizing the private sector’s role in promoting democratic thinking both within and beyond the workplace can inspire young individuals to sustain their societal engagements as they embark on their full-time careers.

Finally, the proposal addresses a crucial aspect of mental health care, acknowledging the impact of societal issues on well-being. Providing employees with the opportunity to discuss individual and societal concerns in the workplace offers a release valve for tension. It reinforces the idea that the workplace cares about the world as much as the individual employee does, fostering a sense of collective concern for the broader community.