Phase 3: Dream

bloomington cove group

Bloomington Cove Care Community dreaming an ideal future of care.

What is Dream?

Dream is the third stage of the Partnerships in Dementia Care (PiDC) Alliance Appreciative Inquiry process. During Dream Culture Change Coalitions (CCCs) work to imagine an ideal future for their group or organization.  Importantly, these dreams should not be hindered by concerns over finances, bureaucracy or current policy. 

For a brief overview of the Dream phase please refer to our Dream Fact Sheet (pdf).

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What is the purpose of the Dream phase?

Through consensus and collaboration and by building on the positive stories collected in Discovery, the purpose of Dream is first to identify specific aspects of a group or organization which would benefit from attention in the final two phases of the culture change process. Secondly, the goal is to create ‘Aspiration Statements’ which help to visualize what positive change might look like.

When Discovery is done well, the Dream phase of this process can move very quickly, faster than either Dawn or Discovery.

Remember: During the analysis portion of Discovery, CCC members were asked to identify existing strengths and to ask themselves what these strengths told them about what an ideal future might look like.

Collectively envisioning an organizations’ future based on its successful past is to weave the web of meaning that endures - continuity, novelty and transition. 

To engage in dreaming and envisioning is to invite organization stakeholders to what they thought was possible (Magruder Watkins, Mohr and Kelley, 2011, p. 214-5 emphasis added).

go beyond

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‘Going beyond’—Dream for a future bigger than the status quo

It is important to recognize the impulse to ‘problem-solve’ that often emerges during the Dream phase of this journey. Remind your group that the goal is not to problem solve current issues or speedbumps in daily operations, but to imagine a truly ideal future, rooted in current strengths, which the group or organization can then work towards creating. In Dream, the facilitator or culture change champions should take care to keep the focus on an ideal future that is ‘bigger’ than the status quo, which reflects on current strengths, but leaves problems behind.  

As a facilitator, culture change ambassador or leader—remember that Dream is most successful when it builds on positive stories and findings from the Discovery phase.   

Recall two of the Assumptions of the AI process 

  • “What we focus on becomes our reality.” and
  • “If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past” (Hammond, 1998, p. 19-20). 

Consider reflecting on these assumptions as you move into the Dream phase as a way to encourage Culture Change Coalition members to remain positive.

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Keeping the CCC Appreciative through the Dream Phase

Remember: the Appreciative Inquiry process is not meant to be linear. It is meant to be responsive to the evolving needs and dynamics of your group or organization. If you find that the dynamic has changed in a way that may be taking the process off course, it is important to take some time to critically reflect on the goals and opportunities at hand.


It is always useful to look ahead at suggestions for culture change, and to think about whether any skills or ideas should be introduced to the Culture Change Coalition, or the group or organisation at large ahead of time.

How should Dream unfold?

It is easiest to think of Dream phase as unfolding in three stages, though, as with all phases of the Appreciative Inquiry process, there might be small or significant overlap between and within the phases.

  1. Become comfortable with the goals and opportunities of the Dream phase.
  2. Use Discovery Analysis to create Aspiration Statements.
  3. Spread the word! Celebrate progress and Gather Feedback from the larger community.

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Stage 1: Becoming comfortable with the goals and opportunities of Dream phase

As your group or organization moves through the Dream phase you may find that the process of imagining an ideal future without limitations is a novel task for many members of your Culture Change Coalition. “For many, this is the first time they have been invited to think great thoughts and create great possibilities for their organization” (Magruder Watkins, Mohr and Kelley, 2011, p. 215).

Below are a few activities that are useful early in the Dream phase to help the CCC grow accustomed to the ideas which underlie this phase and which will help in the eventual creation of Aspiration Statements.

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Stage 2: Using Discovery Analysis to create Aspiration Statements

The ultimate goal of Dream is to create Aspiration Statements that clearly outline a shared vision of an ideal future for your group or organization. 

It is important that the Aspiration Statements created in Dream are rooted in the analysis of the positive stories and experiences shared during Discovery.  This means that the first goal of Stage 2 is to Organize Discovery analysis into clear, broad themes.

Finding themes and Organizing Discovery Analysis

The entire CCC, or a small committee of CCC members should work together to review the Discovery analysis and identify between 3-5 themes which seem to emerge from the strengths identified in the data.

There is no set rule on how to identify themes. Simply consider the Discovery analysis and identify the major categories of strengths that have been identified.  The themes should be broad enough to include a number of ideas.  Recognize that some of the analysis might fit into more than one theme. 

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What might a Discovery theme look like?

Below are the themes used by one of the PiDC Alliance Culture Change Coalitions to organize completed Discovery analysis:

  • being informed
  • feeling a sense of community/having close relationships
  • feeling valued and respected
  • having a comfortable, safe and engaging space

These themes are purposely broad so that strengths related to very different aspects of care can be grouped together.

For example, for this CCC, analysis about the following care practices were placed under the theme of 'being informed':

  • Staff members are informed about and have access to the latest advances in care and having access to effective summaries about what is most meaningful to residents. 
  • Residents in the long term care facility are informed and have input regarding their care practices. Residents know that information about their care is shared easily between staff members with different roles and across all shifts.
  • Family members of residents having clear open lines of communication about care practice with their family members and with staff at the long term care home.

Below are activities for your CCC to identify Discovery Analysis Themes and to Sort Discovery Analysis into these themes.  Finally, there is a template for presenting the sorted analysis in chart form. These charts are very helpful in creating Aspiration Statements.

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Creating Aspiration Statements

Aspiration Statements describe some aspect of the group or organization in the future, after the Appreciative Inquiry process is completed. The statements presume that Culture Change has been successful on every account.

Each aspiration statement reflects a value or goal related to the Discovery of what already works best in a group or organization. It can be helpful to think of an aspiration statement as a guidepost or vision statement towards which the group can plan, educate and effect change. 

Ideally, Aspiration Statements work to “bridge the best of ‘what is’ with  speculation or intuition of ‘what might be’” (Cooperider, 2002).

When we create an aspiration statement we turn traditional problem solving on its head. We challenge ourselves to dream big, to think outside the box and refuse to be limited by our current understandings of ‘how things are’ in creating a vision of the future.

In the words of David Cooperider (2002):

[An effective aspiration statement] stretches the realm of the status quo, challenges common assumptions or routines, and helps suggest real possibilities that represent desired possibilities for  the organization and its people

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How do we create Aspiration Statements?

With Discovery successfully completed, the exercise is simple. Take what was learned during the discovery analysis about the ‘best of what is’ and work together to describe a future that reflects and builds on the themes identified. Dream about what is important to you, and what is valued by the organisation and its people. When completed, these aspiration statements will serve as a guide for where the organization and its people will move in the future.

Below is a Resource Guide which includes examples of strong Aspiration Statements and clear instructions on how to write them effectively. Culture Change facilitators should familiarize themselves with the guide and also share and discuss it with the CCC before beginning the process. There is also an Activity to guide your CCC through the writing process and a template for drafting your statements.

Remember: The creation of Aspiration Statements is the primary goal of the Dream phase.  It is important that CCCs take the time to ensure that they have captured the critical findings of Discovery.

Note: Your group may find that more than one Aspiration Statement might emerge from a single 'theme' or that a few themes might get collapsed into one Aspiration Statement. That's ok! Encourage your group to be thorough and to be comfortable with overlapping goals and Dreams.

Sample aspiration statements from the Huron County Culture Change Coalition

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Part 3—Spreading the word! Celebrate progress and collect feedback from the larger community

In part three of the Dream phase, Culture Change Coalitions should focus on expanding the message of Culture Change to the wider group or organization. In order for phase 4 and 5 to be successful, it is important that as many members of the larger group or organization as possible are kept up to date on important developments from the group.

Remember: Those outside of the CCC are likely unfamiliar with:

  • Appreciative Inquiry,
  • Collaborative decision-making, and
  • Strengths-focussed change processes.

It is natural that those outside of the CCC might view the work of the CCC as another 'traditional' problem solving technique in which they are mandated to change behaviour from above.  Culture Change is most successful when the broader group or organization feels respected, heard and informed.

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Keep the broader group or organization informed

CCC members should use multiple techniques to keep the broader group or organization informed about the Culture Change process. Use what works best for your group or organization as well as the broader community. Culture Change Coalitions at the PiDC Alliance have used the following methods to spread the word:

  • Articles in newsletters distributed to staff, family and residents.
  • Press coverage in local papers linked to major events like Alzheimer's Awareness month.
  • Holding a community celebration to share finalized Aspiration Statements and to gain feedback on which statements community members are most excited about.
  • CCC members have spoken at Family or Residents' council meetings to explain the Culture Change process and goals, to invite individuals to give feedback, and to re-assure that this is a collaborative strengths based approach.
  • Holding Conversation Cafe's or providing for coffee breaks in which CCC members can discuss Culture Change and Aspiration Statements with the larger organization and community.
  • Social media, including twitter, blog posts and Facebook
  • Inviting staff members and others to attend a portion of a CCC meeting, give feedback on drafts of Aspiration Statements, and share positive recent stories.
  • Post Aspiration Statements in common areas.

It's important to ensure during the entire Culture Change process that efforts are made to keep the wider group or organization up to date with what's happening within the CCC, why information (during Discovery) is being collected, and how individuals can get involved or provide feedback during each phase of the journey.

Remember: It is important, when introducing Aspiration Statements to a wider group or organization, that they are explained as a Dream for the future, not a mandate for the present.  

Is your organization experiencing challenges with the Dream phase?

For assistance with overcoming culture change barriers see our guide to overcoming barriers to culture change.

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Cooperider, D. (2002). Constructing Provocative Propositions. In Provocative Propositions. Retrieved from (March 8, 2013).

Dupuis, S.L., McAiney, C.A., Fortune, D. B., Ploeg, J., & de Witt, L. (2014). Theoretical foundations guiding culture change: The work of the Partnerships in Dementia Care Alliance. Dementia Online First, January 13, 2014. Available from Sage Journals Online

Hammond, S.A., 1998. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. 2nd ed.  Bend: Thin Book Publishing.

Magruder Watkins, J., Mohr,B., Kelly, R. (2011). Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination. Pfeiffer: San Francisco.

Appendix 1: Tools and Resources for Dream

Dream Overview

Dream Fact Sheet (pdf).

Stage 1: Becoming Comfortable with the goals and opportunities of Dream phase

Stage 2: Using Discovery Analysis to Create Aspiration Statements

  Finding Themes and Organizing Discovery Analysis

  Creating Aspiration Statements