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Inclusivity on the menu at upcoming World Café

Feb. 5 online event to promote gender-inclusive culture
A. World Cafe
Second-degree black belt Laurel Sukkau, at her Gibsons residence, prepares to fight discrimination.

A public forum is being planned by volunteers to promote gender-inclusive culture on the Sunshine Coast, using a model originally designed for in-person dialogue newly adapted for an online environment.

“World Café: Exploring Questions of Self-Identity and Self-Expression” will be a 90-minute facilitated discussion on the Zoom web conferencing platform, according to its organizer, Gibsons resident Laurel Sukkau. It is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 5.

Sukkau, who is a member of the baby boomer generation, said the idea was born from challenges she faced when communicating with younger people about matters of sexual identity.

“The question ‘What gender are you? doesn’t seem to come up so much in my generation,” Sukkau said. “I think a subject like this is an example of how we can feel threatened by changes that we don’t understand. We listen with guardedness.”

Participants in the World Café will identify potential actions that can be taken in their families and communities in response to concerning trends in Canadian society.

A study last year by Statistics Canada showed an increase in hate crimes targeting sexual orientation, with a rise of 41 per cent from 2018 to 2019 alone.

More recently, a national survey by the same federal agency discovered that gender-diverse participants experienced a rate of discrimination almost three times higher than male participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender-diverse individuals are those who do not identify exclusively as female or male.

The World Café model was originally designed by business leaders and academics in the mid-1990s as a way of breaking large-group discussions into intimate, face-to-face conversations that explore constituent parts of a specific question.

The methodology was later codified by the World Café Stewardship Council, a U.S. not-for-profit organization. Its seven design principles—including “Create Hospitable Space” and “Connect Diverse Perspectives”—are being refashioned for a virtual setting by Sukkau and five volunteer facilitators from Sechelt and Gibsons.

Metamorphosis comes naturally to Sukkau. She is co-founder of the Encompass Project, a multimedia initiative that offers an online platform for storytellers and artists; Encompass itself grew out of her involvement in a local Toastmasters club. She also holds a second-degree black belt in Shito-Ryu Satokai karate and teaches traditional Japanese martial arts at the Kaigan Shito-Ryu Karate dojo in Roberts Creek.

The World Café event promises to be less combative and more constructive, although Sukkau is swift to draw connections between karate and paradigm shifts.

“You make small adjustments. You find your way into alignment, and then you move more easily and naturally,” she said. “It’s getting in touch with that authentic self that’s not built on preconceived ideas and judgments.”

“[The World Café] will be training muscles that we might not be used to training.”

Although there is no cost to participate in the World Café discussion, the number of participants in the World Café is limited. Registration is available by browsing local event listings at