It has long been accepted practice that plans and strategies for the management of change in communities should be shaped around a ‘vision’ of the future of the place. Indeed, in England from 2000 to 2015 such practice was a requirement for statutory community strategies and development plans. Some academics have, however, questioned the practice as being poorly defined, and lacking a theoretical basis or evidence of efficacy. Government-sponsored studies of English practice have confirmed that the meaning of ‘vision’ in this context, and its intended purpose, are poorly understood. Drawing on the historical relationship between utopian practice and town planning, this article identifies from literature relating to utopian studies, framed within Henri Lefebvre’s dialectical and experimental form of utopianism, a cyclical utopic method that could be applied to place-shaping practice. The Lefebvrian method focuses on a purpose for visions that is more about social learning and consensus building as outcomes of the vision process – similar to the role of utopias in the ‘education of desire’ – rather than implementing a vision as if it were a blueprint. This article moves towards addressing these criticisms, identifying utopianism as a source of a potential theoretical understanding of the use of visions in place-shaping. It also serves to provide a practical context within which to test the idea of an experimental and dialectical (Lefebvrian) form of utopianism.