The beauty of Jeffersonian dinners

dinner-party-advice-resiveThomas Jefferson is, without doubt, one of the greatest minds in history. Of the many things he has done for the world, the introduction of Jeffersonian dinners is my favorite. It is at its best – a dinner with a twist. Not only does it spark some of the best conversations one may ever participate in, it helps build networks and create new ideas along with a support network.

So what is a Jeffersonian dinner? It is essentially a carefully curated list of 8-12 invitees, ideally the leading minds across fields to come together and spend time debating, sharing ideas around a specific topic. It served as an input to Mr. Jefferson’s ever-growing knowledge base and encouraged free flowing stimulating discussions. The participants of the dinner may or may not be acquainted with each other pre-dinner but definitely form strong connections after.

There are some basic ground rules to ensure a successful dinner:

  • It is a dinner amongst equals. Never include any one big celebrity or equivalent who may dominate discussions
  • Limit the attendees to 12. The optimal range is 8-12.
  • Send out brief introduction of the participants.
  • Choose a location optimal for dinner table discussions. One on one discussions or smaller group discussions are not encouraged.
  • Open with an easy question that lets everyone talk a little about themselves while easing into the topic of discussion.
  • Towards the end, ask how each one plans to take the idea forward. No compulsions. It can be as simple as – ‘I will think further on this topic’ or ‘I will connect with XYZ to understand her work better.’

You can of course add your own nuances to how you want to host your Jeffersonian dinner. It’s the twist that you add that gives the event a flavor of your own.

While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend or host a Jeffersonian dinner, it is definitely on my to-do list. One thing I am sure of is that it would be an experience worthy of another blog post 🙂

Further reading:

http://www.thegenerositynetwork.com/resources/jeffersonian-dinners/

https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersonian-dinners

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