Project Gunsleben - General Design - Overview

Posted on di 10 juli 2018 in designs

This work is the result of a PDC held in Gunsleben, Germany. The first week was from June 30th 2018 to July 7th 2018. The second week was from September 16th 2018 to September 23th 2018. At the end of the first week the participants divided into three design teams: one for the building, one for the garden and one for the overall design.

Our design team focused on the general design specifically using the tools of Dragon Dreaming to facilitate process. This page documents our journey. The team had two members: Arno Peters and Roy Hendriks.

After a strong start the project ground to a halt. Due to limited availability and waning interest not much has come from the later phases. This design has been abandoned.

Dragon Dreaming process

We used both the-book Dragon Dreaming International E-Book and the SpEmBoM design system - The Wheel ​Implementation for guidance on Dragon Dreaming process.

The stages of Dragon Dreaming from Ulrike Reimann's information sheet A Complete Dragon Dreaming Process are:

  • Dreaming
    • Awareness
    • Motivation
    • Gathering Information
  • Planning
    • Consideration of Alternatives
    • Design of a Strategy
    • Testing / Trialing a Pilot
  • Doing
    • Implementation
    • Management and Administration
    • Monitoring Progress
  • Celebrating
    • Acquiring New Skills
    • Transforming Results for Individuals
    • Discerning Wisdom

Note the overlap with SADIMet:

  • Survey - Gathering Information
  • Analysis - Consideration of Alternatives
  • Design - Design of a Strategy
  • Implement - Implementation
  • Monitor / Maintain - Management and Administration
  • evaluate - Monitoring Progress
  • tweak - Management and Administration

Also note what is not covered in SADIMet:

Every project starts with an awareness and a motivation to change. This is implicit in SADIMet.

Another area not covered by SADIMet is Celebration. To be happy for the results obtained and to mourn the expectation that were not met. This to explicitly learn from the finished project.

Dreaming: Using the Dreaming Circle

We used the dreaming circle in the kickoff meeting. In social permaculture this is called the vision.

Results of the Dream Circle:

  • for the project we use the tools of Dragon Dreaming, Permaculture and Sociocracy;
  • we facilitate the design process of all groups in the PDC;
  • we create an overview design for Gerbrand and his parents for Gunsleben.

Planning: Setting the Objectives

We set the objectives in the first meeting. In social permaculture these are called the mission.

Our objectives for this project are:

  • apply survey tools to Gerbrand, family and Gunsleben;
  • learn, evaluate, integrate, compare and contrast Dragon Dreaming, Permaculture and Sociocracy tools;
  • share skills, information and updates with regular celebrations and meetings engaging all design teams.

Looking at the objectives shows the first is more about the immediate next phase of the project, not about the whole project.

We did not place dots on the objectives using the generative question: "Which objective if considered first would help make all objectives and 100 percent of our dreams come true"?

Planning: Building the Project Goal

We set the goals for this project in the first meeting. In social permaculture these are called the aims.

  • weekly meetings
  • document process as we're doing it
  • use online platforms to share and communicate
  • reserve approx. 2h/week for design
  • weekly updates to Whatsapp group

Note that making the actual design got left out. Learning about Dragon Dreaming etc also got left out.

Planning: Creating a Karabirrdt

We created an online board for tasks to be added to. Every meeting we create tasks to add to the board. The next week we work on the tasks.

Karabirrdt after the last meeting.


The main project documents for each phase can be found here:

As mentioned in the summary: due to limited availability and waning interest not much has come from the phases after Dreaming.


This project gives me mixed feelings. Over the last year I have been involved in a few projects that use the internet as their main communication method. I note several recurring difficulties:

  • maintaining momentum
  • maintaining commitment
  • scheduling regular meetings, or even irregular meetings
  • technical issues like flaky internet or limited bandwidth
  • only 2D (screen) interaction with project instead of 3D (full-body) experience
  • lack of commitment from other team members
  • lack of commitment from other teams on the same project
  • I hear lots of talking and I see preciously little action
  • no visible appreciation for the work being done
  • when no one takes charge, nothing gets done - despite lofty goals of sociocracy and dragon dreaming
  • real life commitments weigh heavier than virtual commitments

All this leaves me feeling disappointed at times. I don't know how to change it.


Coordinating and having meetings over the internet has proven to be a big hurdle in getting things done. A team needs to work in close proximity for members to feel motivated and engaged with the project.

Another factor was the visibility of contributions by each member. When a team only consists of only a few people, if one of them does not pull his or her weight, this will have an immediate effect on the other team members' motivation.

On meetings, online and face to face

I find setting a fixed time every (other) week works better than asking people each time to fill out a date picker to find a date that works for most people.

This additional speedbump is especially noticable in online projects as everyone has their own day-to-day schedule and there are few opportunities to socialize outside of formal meetings.

Location of vision and mission in SpEmBoM

SpEmBoM places vision and mission at the end of the dreaming stage. From Ulrike's explanation, dreaming starts with awareness and a motivation to change something: the dream starts from identifying needs discovered in the previous celebration phase.

Here's how to resolve this. In SpEmBoM the vision and the mission follow from the client interview. It's the client who experienced an awareness for change and a motivation to hire a designer. To get to a realistic vision, the designer starts with observations in the field.

Working with the Dragon Dreaming model

In documenting our work, I found myself wondering how to present our findings. I finally realized there are two interrelated cycles.

The first cycle is the meta-design:

  • we dream of doing a design
  • we plan doing a design
  • we do doing a design and
  • we celebrate doing a design.

The second cycle is in doing the design:

  • we dream of the design
  • we plan the design
  • we do the design and
  • we celebrate the design.

Note that in this second cycle the last parts (doing and celebrating) will be done by the client of the design.

This can be expanded even further down. We did not do this. To show what it would look like for the dreaming of the design:

  • we dream of using a survey tool
  • we plan using a survey tool
  • we do use a survey tool
  • we celebrate using a survey tool.

I do like the circular nature of Dragon Dreaming as it mimics nature's seasons. I found it very helpful see how much dreaming and celebration phases are much needed for a succesful project.

I can also see how people's lazy nature tends to prevail. It is so much easier to say "I dream about food" than it is to go out and get groceries or go forage. Saying "The dream was not strong enough to be manifested" is a bullshit excuse for not taking the initiative.

On complaining

Related to the previous point is the tendency for people to complain about stuff they have not done. I tend to get irritated and annoyed with this. This is what I hear: "please don't think of me as a bad person because I did not do the work". Own your laziness or do the work, don't complain about it! For my sake, please!

Final words

I have learned about working in geographically disjoint teams. I have gained a deeper understanding of the tools of Dragon Dreaming and of Permaculture. It has been a valuable experience.