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Participants discuss the future of sustainable food at a recent Boma New Zealand Campfire. One chair is always open for a new voice.

Participants discuss the future of sustainable food at a recent Boma New Zealand Campfire. One chair is always open for a new voice.

A Circle of Chairs, A Diversity of Voices

What Is a Boma Campfire?

  • Purpose — To have a hyper-focused discussion with a large group of people
  • Key people — Curate for diversity: decision-makers, collaborators, team members
  • Guest list — 15+ people
  • Setting — Theater in the round, green space, creative conference room

A Boma Campfire is a focused group discussion about a specific theme or question that the participants will explore: How will the future of AI affect corporate decision-making? What are the unintended consequences of free speech online? How do we get clean water to people who need it most?

The Campfire format is simple: Five chairs face each other in the center of the room. Four people sit, leaving one chair empty — while the rest of the group gathers around. The conversation begins with the four who are seated. If you like what you hear, you rub your hands together, as though warming them by the fire. If you disagree, you snap your fingers or express displeasure audibly with your mouth closed (à la Marge Simpson).

If you want to join the conversation, you sit in the open chair — and one of the other four must stand and leave their chair free. In this way, the conversation never has more than four voices, but one chair is always open for a fresh perspective. The discussion continues until it reaches a natural end or until the organizer announces no new people can sit down.

At a recent Boma New Zealand Campfire, participants discussed the future of food and what their community could do to provide more sustainable options.

“It's a great way to facilitate a robust, respectful and coherent conversation across a large group of people in a short time period,” said Kaila Colbin, founder of Boma New Zealand. “It’s by far the most structured and effective method to engage up to 50 or 60 people in a single, focused discussion — and to walk away with an action plan.”

How to Build Your Campfire

As our world becomes increasingly polarized, it's more important than ever to engage in conversations with people whose opinions differ from ours. We sometimes believe we're having such discussions in social media, but in reality the algorithms that decide what content we see only serve to reinforce the bubbles we live in.

We believe the Boma Campfire format creates a unique opportunity for meaningful conversations among people with many points of view. We can help you build bridges within your community or organization in a way that not only fosters a new understanding, but also leads to decisions and next steps.

The key is to ensure you've invited a diverse guest list — and that you frame the conversation in a way that maximizes group participation. We can help you do that. We believe that all voices should be welcome, all opinions treated with respect, and that sometimes the best ideas come from those who need extra encouragement to speak up.

A Boma Campfire will not only help bring out the best of your community, it will lead to a renewed spirit of unity, purpose and insight among all members.

Contact us to learn more.

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