Listening to communities: Time Credits support facilitation of World Café

A World Café is a community engagement method for opening dialogue in a casual setting. A ‘host’ asks one or more open, positive questions to start a conversation with a group of people. The idea of the World Cafe is to create an environment where power is shared, where people are invited to give their opinions and – no matter how difficult to hear – facilitators are encouraged to listen without judgement or disagreement.

Recently, Time Credits were invited to participate in a World Café event in Lancashire, as part of our Mobilising Communities project, which is delivered in partnership with Lancashire County Council and designed to support and evaluate new ways of getting people involved in improving the health and wellbeing of communities.

The World Café in Skelmersdale

Hosted by officers from Lancashire Police, the aim of the event was to find out what local people think about safety in their community. We attended the event to help facilitate conversations and issue Time Credits to those that attended, as a way to thank people for coming along and giving their time. Time Credits are a tool for showing that everyone’s time is valuable and our Systems Change report explains in greater detail how Time Credits support stronger relationships between citizens and the services serving our communities.

The Police and other local agencies attended the event in non-uniform, casual clothes and got involved in facilitating discussion as members of the community. They put on some music, a buffet and invited people to sit around tables and discuss three questions informally in small groups:

  • What is good about living here?
  • What are the biggest risks relating to safety in this area?
  • What can you do as a community to address these risks?

A key strength of the World Café style is to reverse the default position of ‘agencies as experts’, encouraging local service providers to ask questions instead of feeling they are there to provide answers. It also shows people that are part of the conversation that they are trusted and respected to help find positive solutions to difficult problems.


With a turnout of around 70 people, the event was a great success. At the end, people were invited to give their feedback on anonymous post-it notes and the comments showed that people were clearly energised by their conversations. One post-it – “good meeting – don’t let it be a one-off” – echoed a general feeling that the World Café had been a great starting point to what many hoped would be a sustained project.

Many believe that community development methods such as the World Café will be essential to an effective and sustainable future of community policing and more widely in the design and delivery of public services. To achieve this, we will need communities to give their time and Time Credits are one way to help service providers show they are thankful for it.

Andy Bramhall from the West Lancs Early Action Team said “Having spoken to some of the recipients of the Credits since the event, it was felt that Time Credits are a fantastic idea and really got them into the mind-set of further volunteering to collect more Credits.”

For more information on the Mobilising Communities programme, please contact Harriet Pugh via email or on 07472 884920