30.01.2021 Environment

Dragon Dreaming

A model for drawing people together to fully engage with their dreams has led to some inspirational outcomes, as Gillian Saunders shares

We live in a time when many of us feel our civilisation has lost its way. Faced with challenges of global and possibly apocalyptic proportions, we skirt gingerly around futility, powerlessness, apathy, fatalism and blame. Yet many of us also have dreams we would like to see realised in the world, that could revitalise our communities in positive and life affirming ways, and help to forge a path towards a future which honors and sustains each other and our biosystem. Sadly, fewer than one in a thousand of these ever emerge into successful and sustainable projects. Collectively we seem to have lost faith in our dreams and in our ability to live our way into the solutions that they present.

“When you lose your dreaming, you lose part of your soul.”: John Croft

It was a deep investigation of why it seems so difficult for dreams to win clearance and emerge as successful projects that led Perth man John Croft to develop Dragon Dreaming, a tool for developing community enterprise strategic partnerships.

Simply put, it allows people to come together to create successful, problem-solving projects that make a difference at the level of local communities.

Influenced strongly by the work of Buddhist deep ecologist, Joanna Macy, John drew on his lifetime experience in community development, including the formation of the Gaia Foundation and the Foundation for Inner Peace in WA, to create the Dragon Dreaming model.

From its inception in 2004, Dragon Dreaming has created over 1800 successful projects in 53 countries around the world, including Transition Towns and Clean Up Slovenia, which involved the entire nation.


“Dragon Dreaming is about letting your project get safely out of control.” : John Croft


The invitation of Dragon Dreaming is to passionately engage with our dreams, embracing them as our entrance into a future that benefits humanity and the planet. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Every project emerges as a dialogue between an individual and the world, says John, and what is required to bring this into the world is that you allow your dream to be seen by others and ultimately to die and be reborn as the dream of those who will work with you.

In this way it becomes a collective dream and in that process gains access to the field of intelligence that lies beyond our rational mind.


He explains that to be able to commit to the project and support it wholeheartedly it is essential for those involved to identify 100% with the dream. Yet in a culture, which frames itself in terms of win/lose games, this possibility creates fear and blockage that will keep many projects stuck in the realm of ideas.

Win/lose games are embedded in our worldview, which sees life in terms of things over which we believe we have power and control.

In truth, life is a flow of energy, matter and information, which we need to learn to work with rather than try to control. However, when we shift focus and direct our energy into creating win/win strategies – outcomes that benefit ourselves, our communities and the planet, – we enter a new way of engaging with life, one that liberates our collective intelligence.


Facing our fears, John says, is our greatest source of strength, and voicing these can allow us access to endless possibilities that were not there before.

The challenge we face in order to do this is to make ourselves vulnerable, to let ourselves be truly and deeply seen, and to include the opinions of those who are the resistors of our project, as well as those aspects of ourselves we often condemn to the shadows.

This is the arena where miracles are possible and where we can dance with our dragons!

When we are empowered to do this, it allows us to truly hear voices other than our own.


“The way we work together in our projects is hugely influenced by the way we communicate and listen to each other. Our everyday communication acts like a shield; we hide behind facts and judgment.”

Dragon Dreaming seeks to find a language that bypasses our defenses, through deep, empathic listening and working with generative questions – those that have emotional power in the lives of questioner and questioned. Communicating in this way, we access our intuition and allow the project to speak through us. We also open an invitation to engage with what we do not know.


“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable”


As well as devaluing dreaming, our culture fails to recognise celebration as a vital part of any project. “It is the importance of celebration that makes Dragon Dreaming different from many other project management tools. Here celebration is not a task of the noisy extrovert, but rather a part of reflection, gratitude and recognition,” says John.

Dragon Dreaming uses celebration to acknowledge and honor all that went well, as well as reflecting on what did not go as well.

Celebration means including the personal and is in itself an exercise in community building by creating a safe space to share emotions, through which we contribute to the depth and honesty of the project. This is also where personal growth becomes included as a part of the project and where the gifts and skills that we have received through participation are acknowledged.

Through celebrating at every stage of the project, we can avoid burnout; and by learning from the reflective process and valuing the individual, the group and the earth itself, we ensure that a project proceeds in a nourishing and life affirming way.

“Only when you reflect on what has been done, can you convert knowledge into wisdom, and in this way celebration builds collective wisdom”.

John describes Dragon Dreaming as love in action. “It is about recognising that are all one, all connected and all an inseparable part of the world around us, and working within that recognition for the benefit of all”.

After spending the past ten years training people overseas, John is currently in Perth working on re-establishing Dragon Dreaming here. He will be holding several workshops in the next few months.

Contact John at jdcroft@yahoo.comfor more information

Gillian Saunders

Gillian Saunders is a Perth- based journalist who ” has lived her dreams”.