Tools and Activities for Dreamlike Neighbourhoods

Storytelling café

A storytelling café is a moderated group conversation that invites people to come together in a café-like setting and share their stories and experiences on a certain topic, for instance their childhood, music, travelling, etc. The method was designed as a low-threshold and participatory tool for fostering exchange between people who might otherwise not have a chance to share their life stories. The aim is to encourage people to talk and create meeting spaces.

Basically, it is important to keep in mind that there are no expectations of the outcome or conclusion of a storytelling café. In the Dreamlike Neighbourhood project, the method was used to bring people together and encourage them to get to know each other (better), share experiences, discover commonalities and develop a sense of community and belonging.

Storytelling cafés can be organised with participants of all ages, or be age-specific or have an intergenerational focus. In the Dreamlike Neighbourhood project, storytelling cafés were organised in an older people’s club in Vienna and with a group of older volunteers of Letokruh in Prague.

Based on experiences gained in Prague and Vienna, we would like to share the following tips and tricks:

  • In order to attract people, chose the title of the event well. In Austria, for instance, partners decided to call it “chatting” to highlight the non-binding and informal character of the event.
  • Involve older participants in the preparation, and agree on the topics and dates of future meetings 
  • A welcoming coffee house atmosphere (e. g. with coffee and cake) makes it easier for participants to open up and participate.
  • At the beginning it might be helpful to discuss some basic “rules” with participants, e. g. Listening is as important as telling. All storytelling is voluntary. Narratives based on one’s own life experience are treated with appreciation, they are not discussed or judged.
  • To encourage narratives some inspiring introductory questions, items, pictures or quotes might be helpful. 
  • Give everyone space and time to tell his or her stories.
  • Only interrupt if necessary and then in a sensitive way (if one person is really dominating the event).
  • Allow feelings and digression. 

Interested in some more detailed experiences from Dreamlike Neighbourhood partners? Please have a look at three examples of storytelling cafés from Vienna and Prague:

In the following video, participants of the “Plauderei am Hofferplatz” present their “chats“ and talk about their experiences (in German with English subtitles)