Download The Dreaming Workbook

Download The Dreaming Workbook

by Kira Erwin and Kathryn Pillay

Click here
to view public information related to the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19

A creative methodology for difficult conversations

Dreaming of a better future is not just an exercise of the imagination. Imagining a world in which things are more fair, equal and just offers a horizon towards which we can walk together through shaping our present actions and ideas. It also, importantly, makes us think about the more difficult question: how do we turn our dreams into reality? What do we need to change in the present to start moving towards this imagined future? What needs to shift? And of course, what good already exists in the present that we need to make sure we nurture!

Dreaming workshops were designed for a specific research project carried out in Durban, South Africa. The methodology was developed to explore whether, and how, young people imagine race and non-racialism in their future; and what present day obstacles they identify to obtaining this dream. The original study investigated how groups of Grade 11 students (approximately 16 years old) from five different schools in the city of Durban, imagine this future. There are links on this site that offer more details on this study and its findings. During the process of running these Dreaming

Workshops however, we felt, as did some of the teachers we worked with it was also a useful mechanism for starting a much-needed dialogue about ideas of race, privilege, racism, antiracism and non-racialism amongst school learners. Following this we decided to offer the methodology more widely online. The workbook is available for download here and offers a step-by-step guide to running a Dreaming Workshop. This workbook is made for teachers, social justice activists and educational practitioners.

methodology - What Dreaming Workshops offer:

Dreaming Workshops offer a creative participatory focus group enquiry/dialogue that run over two sessions, and requires some preparatory work from the facilitator between these. It is particularly useful as a method to have a facilitated conversation about issues of inequality and social justice, in a way that recognizes the broader context in which inequality and discrimination exists. It also enables these difficult conversations to happen against the background of a loosely designed future horizon, in the form of a dreaming tree, which the participants have themselves collectively voiced.


We have used it in the South African context to study issues of race, class, social identities and difference, as well as thinking through what actions are needed if we were to work towards a more socially just and equal society. But this method could be used to focus on many others ways in which people both live together and live apart, and what these social relations mean for a better future (gender, sexuality and environmental degradation would be other obvious examples). Whilst this method offers a strong participatory element the direction of the conversation to a certain extent can be gently shaped by the facilitator (there is more on thinking through the pros and cons of choosing a facilitator in the workbook).

This method is particularly appropriate when researching children’s experiences and perspectives, as participants are recognized as experts and encourages them to view the process as communicating with peers, as opposed to only being interrogated by, or lectured to, by an adult.


Dreaming workshops are modes of debate that are less interested in how actors in the state or academic institutions believe the future should be defined. Dreaming Workshops focus on how participants take responsibility and agency in imagining a new social order, and what issues would need to be addressed in the present to arrive at a better future. When we imagine a better future for humans we must recognise that we are all already busy making or dismantling this future. Dreaming Workshops therefore, offer participants more than simply providing a description of their collective future, but a chance to analyse together where and how experiences, and societal structures, in the present inspire, or hinder, these future dreams.

examples (click to view)


Lessons in Respect: Building Respectful Schools and Inclusive Communities through Education. Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (2015)

additional resources

(click images to read)

Classrooms of Hope: Case studies of South African teachers nurturing respect for all. Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (2015)

On a Plate by Toby Morris

NEON Introductory Guide to Privilege and Power.


Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Form received.

Dr. Kira Erwin is a sociologist at the Durban University of Technology


Dr. Kathryn Pillay is a sociologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal


Call: +27 31 373 2017

E-mail: click here