We want to accelerate the […] transition from a carbon-based economy to a sustainable economy, by reducing the demand for energy, investing massively in renewable energy sources, and by keeping the use of energy as low and efficient as possible. Triodos Bank, www.triodos.com.

Kromkommer, [a Dutch wordplay on the words komkommer (cucumber) and krom (wonky)], continues until the goal is achieved: equal rights for all fruit and vegetables and, therefore, less waste. Kromkommer, www.kromkommer.com/english.

We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities it offers. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and its inhabitants—for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and for our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us. European Commission, 2019, ec.europa.eu.

By investing in energy-saving, renewable energy, and reuse of our waste flows, we strive to generate as much sustainable energy worldwide in 2020 as we are using. IKEA, www.ikea.com.

We want to put more beautiful, sustainable products on the market, give new life to valuable material, reduce the heaps of discarded clothes, and inspire and unburden as many brands and consumers as possible. With a passion for our product and the process, and love for the planet, we want to make the world a little nicer and healthier. Loop a Life, www.loopalife.com.

Together we’ll make chocolate 100% slave free. Tony’s Chocolonely, www.tonyschocolonely.com.

To be able to close the Roof2Roof cycle, the cooperation of all parties in the Roof2Roof chain is required. Only then will it be possible to achieve the ultimate result: no waste! Roof2Roof, www.roof2roof.nl.

1 The Bright Spot on the Horizon

In addition to Motive & Context (Building Block #1), the Dream provides a second tool in this stage to help you build your business model. The Dream can also be seen as a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) (Collins, 2021 on which you are going to work. In essence, it is simple. What is the goal of your Dream? How and why will your business model idea/value proposition really make a difference? The Dream building block demands thinking big. You have previously indicated which major social and/or ecological issues you want to solve. Now you will determine what the result of that solution could be, what the ideal final image would look like. What is the bright spot or opportunity you see on the horizon? In this process, it is vital to refrain from all kinds of yes, buts. Note and park all of the challenges you see and actively think outside your mental box. Beyond the problems, roadblocks, challenges, and opportunities you see, you are already dreaming about the future. The Dream can—and should—be broadly defined and based on seeking to address so-called Wicked Problems (Weber & Khademian, 2008). Your solution should seek to go beyond just tackling one issue: it is the very building block in the transition towards sustainable development in society. It offers a solution for either the climate challenge, the energy transition, or the realization of a circular economy. Or perhaps it seeks to address this triple transition simultaneously. That is your Dream.


Tokou’s Dream

My name is Tokou Hinbridias, and since 2017 my team has been working hard on solving the waste problem in Corfu. We want to achieve a waste-free island. Thanks to our activities, events, and social media, we have inspired thousands of people in Corfu to help out over the past two years. The first unofficial recycling centre was opened in Spartylas in May 2018. Another village, Arillas, aims to be the first truly clean village on the entire island. The problem is that there are not enough companies to collect and process waste. Besides, there is much corruption and little cooperation from the existing companies. We need help to ensure that the government does not cover up the problem of corruption. I want to keep working to make Corfu the cleanest, greenest island in Greece. Tokou Hinbridias.

1.1 About Dreaming

It is possible to get lost in thinking about dreams. Is dreaming purely a matter of well-informed creativity or are there theories about dreaming? For as long as humanity has existed, people have engaged in dreams. ‘The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that dreams were an omen of illness. Egyptians, Romans, and Jews saw them as messages of the gods. The Chinese thought they were messages from an entirely different world. This changed in the nineteenth century because a number of psychoanalysts (including Freud and Jung) had a completely different theory about dreams’ (Khan, 2011). What exactly dreams are and the purpose they serve is still largely unknown, despite these centuries of reflection. However, dreaming is a crucial part of the development of a business model. We need dreams to imagine the future. To realize these dreams, you could make use of the scenarios that we described in the previous chapter. Another option is through framing.

1.2 About Rhetoric and Framing

Framing is originally a persuasion technique in communication science. The essence of this technique is to choose a combination of words and (primarily) images in such a way that it highlights a specific set of aspects or properties. An example is: ‘Windmills are run on subsidies’. Framing can be done explicitly with the help of rows and bullets, or more implicitly, in the form of a quote or a (short) story. The latter is also called a narrative. Next we illustrate how framing is used in politics and what you can learn from it.

Framing Example #1

A Dutch member of parliament, El Fassed (Dutch Green Party), was concerned about the lack of policy on nature in the first Rutte administrationFootnote 1 and the impact this was having on accelerating the decline in species of plants and animals. He framed his concern as follows:

Biodiversity is not a luxury. It is a necessity and an important economic value. El Fassed (2010).

What is interesting when one reflects on this message is that he fell into a classic trap. By actually saying that biodiversity is not a luxury, he strengthened the link between the concepts of biodiversity, environment, and luxury. In most cases, denial of a frame leads to its practical confirmation. The later usage of the words necessity and important economic value are no longer registered by most people, regardless of the meaning that these additions may or will have. This is because people tend to first and foremost look for confirmation of an image they are already familiar with.

Framing Example #2

US President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) and his race to the moon with Russia is probably one of the most infamous examples of framing. There follows an excerpt from his speech delivered at Rice University’s Stadium in front of 40,000 people on 12 September 1962:

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.Footnote 2

History is full of people who recognized the importance of framing to depict a valuable, inspiring future in order to influence and change the course of history. Just think of Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962), Martin Luther King (I have a Dream, 1963, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP4iY1TtS3s) and in the Dutch context, the admired and later despised Dutch Minister of Agriculture Sicco Mansholt (the architect of the Never hungry again policy of 1958).

If you want to read more about the extensive research that has been done in this field, we recommend that you take a look at Metaphors we live by (1980) by the authors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. With their unsurpassed axiom, ‘To win, one must frame the debate’, we end this rhetorical excursion.

2 Using Framing to Bring Your Dream to Life

So framing is about the conscious and effective use of visual and language tools to inspire and convince others. Here we want to show you how to use framing to transform the initial seed of your dream into a convincing and inspiring image of a possible future.

But the real question is: How do I apply framing? Here we use the work of Sara Gagestein: Don’t think of a Pink Elephant (2014). She offers five rules of thumb for effective framing, which we recommend, albeit in a slightly adjusted form:

Key points

  1. 1.

    Values first, then words and images: When you want to convince someone of something, the first step is to identify which values you share. These shared values are the basis for developing a frame. Which ideals and motives does the person you want to convince hold? Think of values such as freedom, justice, commitment, and of course, sustainability. The closer the values you select match the values of the other, for example your customer or stakeholders or partners, the stronger the emotional impact. Once you have discovered a number of values that are important both to you and to others, you can develop your frame based on those values by carefully searching for matching words and images and fine-tuning this process until a convincing story has emerged.

  2. 2.

    Be clear, go for simplicity: If you really want to have an impact on another person, it is important to make your story as clear and straightforward as possible. Steer clear of the fallacy that it is about mere simplification. Instead, opt for explicit language and avoid abbreviations and jargon. You will find that doing this in practice is quite difficult. Moreover, never assume that others know what you mean. Words like sustainability, circular economy, or inclusivity are seldom understood immediately, let alone interpreted in the same way by everyone. Always keep in mind that you cannot convince people of things they cannot imagine or relate to.

  3. 3.

    Blacklist of keywords to avoid: In addition to looking for suitable words and images, it is crucial to consider which words you should not use. These are words that run counter to the selected values or, consciously or unconsciously, evoke negative associations. Gagestein recommends creating a blacklist of words to avoid to ensure the wrong choice of words don’t become barriers to your frame reaching others. We suggest that you make a frame of your idea with right and wrong words and then test your ideal words and your blacklist in a small group.

  4. 4.

    Be consistent and keep repeating your message: Research shows that frames are particularly effective when they are repeated and confirmed continuously. The more often the other person is confronted with your frame, the more your idea, your image, or your point of view is anchored in the other person’s brain. Therefore, you are advised to keep repeating the frame consistently. Always do this with the same keywords and the same images: the more you vary, the less firmly a frame settles in the brain.

  5. 5.

    Enjoy the framing game: Many people consider framing to be a necessary evil. But let us be honest: framing can also just be a fun game. Thinking up frames, discovering shared values, and selecting appropriate words makes communication about your soon-to-be business model not only more adequate and effective but also much more fun and exciting. And last but not least, with a little bit of framing knowledge, and by flexing this muscle, you will watch (political) debates and discussion programmes differently and will be able to identify when someone is actively trying to influence the debate using this technique.

Our take-home message here is that you can achieve a lot with the language resources available to you. Note: doing this right requires a little inspiration, but more importantly, hard work until you hit the right note. Simple, clear, appealing messages are often the result of hours of tinkering and trying, refining, putting aside, and trying again. So take your time and don’t get upset when people knock your words or just don’t understand them. Just pick yourself up and start again!


This may be the most important tip: do not sit at your screen, staring at your carefully crafted frames/key messages and visuals. Go and try them out on real people and use their feedback to develop them and keep doing this exercise until your framing lands with people and your key messages are so intuitive they become a part of you. When will you get to this point? It’s hard to say but you will know when the time comes.


Ray Anderson’s Dream (Interface)

In the 1990s, for the transformation of his company, Ray Anderson was inspired by Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce (1994/2010). Anderson not only wanted to be a successful entrepreneur but also wanted to make a restorative contribution to the environment and society. Have a look at his TedTalk on 18 May 2009, entitled The Business Logic of Sustainability, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP9QF_lBOyA.

3 Case Studies: Dream

Case study: WashingGreen

WashingGreen’s dream is to combat climate change. WashingGreen aims to play a decisive role in promoting laundry cleaning using CO2, thus positively impacting global water shortages and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In this way, WashingGreen contributes to a greener world and the transition to a circular economy. WashingGreen, www.washing-green.com.

Case study: Litter

Our ultimate dream is to achieve a circular economy. We would like to transform plastics value chains through closing loops, ensuring that the embedded value in products is maintained. We do so by bringing plastic litter back into the plastic chain. We also seek to create social values by encouraging a collective approach to combating litter. Litter (no website available at the time of publication).

Case study: GreeNet

At GreeNet we dream of contributing to the resolution of the litter problem and how it is separated. Our dream is that all of today’s waste will be our future resources. Not only do we want to generate financial value, but we also want to make a positive contribution to society, from an ecological and social point of view. We want to realize our dream by correctly separating waste at public transport stations throughout the Netherlands. We hope to create one unified Dutch collection network based on a single collection system. GreeNet (no website available at the time of publication).

Case study: Polyethylene Furanoate (PEF) plastic

Our dream is to make the world a little more environment-friendly by turning corn waste and CO2 into PEF plastic. With our PEF, we want to make large events such as football matches, concerts, and festivals more sustainable by creating a mono-stream of PEF. This way everyone can enjoy a snack and a drink during a football match or a performance by their favourite artists. This could be done by means of a deposit system for cups at the events. This makes the event more sustainable because less single-use material is being used.

Case study: CO2Trade

The community-based platform CO2Trade aims to make CO2 a raw material for various production processes. Knowledge sharing brings new applications of CO2 to the market, which leads to new enterprises. Due to sustainable applications of CO2 as a raw material, less CO2 is released into the air, which counteracts climate change in the long term. CO2Trade

Case study: WasteBoards

Plastic pollution is a growing problem. All over the world, rivers, oceans, beaches, and cities are becoming more and more polluted with plastic. WasteBoards wants to turn the tide by involving as many people as possible, creating value from plastic waste while having fun doing it. We start small, but we dream big. Today we bake boards in our small factory in Amsterdam. But how cool would it be to create WasteBoard bakeries in cities around the world, like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro or the slums of Delhi? We dream of a world without littering, where when we wake up, our business is redundant. WasteBoards, www.wasteboards.com.

4 Curating Dreams

Putting all the steps together, you have now dreamed up something—something big—that you want to go for with words and images. For some more inspiration, think of dreams like ‘No more famine in the world, starting with our neighbourhood’, or ‘In ten years we will have created the Waste-less Supermarket’, or ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if people could not only pay with money but also pay with their time, their waste, or by sharing access to their car?’ But between these dreams and their realization, there is the inflexible, tough, and often harsh everyday reality. Work hard, persist, and don’t give up. Moving from dream to implementation requires formulating a clear and explicit value proposition.