Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon: Dialogue Cafe

April 19, 2011

Online cafes for conversation and a global exchange of experiences

For all the talk of social media, we know that conversation takes place best when done face-to-face. But add people from different cities into the mix and the barriers to the best exchanges begin to grow. But a new initiative, the Dialogue Café, aims to change that through state-of-the-art high-definition video.

Started in early 2010, the first cafe was held between Lisbon at the Museum of Design and Fashion (MUDE) and Rio de Janeiro at the Candido Mendes University (UCAM), using CISCO Systems Inc.’s Telepresence technology. The company specially-developed ‘pods’ containing large video screens that could allow participants to appear life-sized as well as showing more people on screen.

Café conversations have included a series of meetings focused on The Future of Cities with an emphasis on designing for our future selves in 2025 or 2050 with participants from Lisbon, Amsterdam, London and New York as well as sessions on Entrepreneurship and the Development of a Sustainable Smart City between cafés in Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro

Initial funding came from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Anna Lindh Foundation to create the Dialogue Café Association whose partners now include the UN Alliance of Civilizations and CISCO. The Association finds local partners such as businesses, city governments and civil society organizations to run each city-based café by physically hosting the ‘pods’. For cities without official cafes, participants can even use CISCO offices.

“Cafés were always places for conversation and the exchange of experiences. And it is precisely that aspect that Dialogue Café aims to tap into, but this time on a global level,” says Executive Director Sara Piteira, “using the technology we now have and which allows us to talk almost face-to-face with someone of the other side of the world,”

Future cafés are planned for London, Florence, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Istanbul, Toronto, New York and Mexico City. Updates on the project can be found the Dialogue Café blog.

In December 2010, the Dialogue Café pod system won the prestigious GOOD DESIGN award. The awards, founded in by architects Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. in Chicago in 1950, recognizes designers and manufacturers for “advancing new, visionary, and innovative product concepts, invention and originality, and for stretching the envelope beyond what is considered ordinary product and consumer design.”

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For this Good Idea contact:

Sara Piteira, Dialogue Café Association