Over 100 Burning Man Regional Contacts and Community Leaders converged last weekend in San Francisco to attend the 4th Annual Regional Leadership Summit. A generous donation of space at-cost from the Bently family made it possible for us to hold our event at the beautiful state-of-the art Bently Reserve in Downtown San Francisco. The purpose of the Summit was to bring together leaders from across the world to exchange ideas, learn new skills and to explore the nature of community as it pertains to the evolving Burning Man Regional Network.
The Summit kicked off on Thursday with rolling registration and happy hour at a neighboring bar and restaurant. Just like Burning Man, the Regional Summit is a family reunion for many who return to San Francisco each year to participate. Thursday evening’s happy hour was packed with Summit guests, Burning Man staff, and the local Burner hosts who so graciously open their homes to our out of town guest during the Summit weekend. Later on that evening, many of the Summit attendees caught the midnight screening of Alice in Wonderland in 3D. In pure Burner fashion, there were white rabbits, Alices, Queens of Hearts, and many outrageous and Wonderland-ready costumes.
On Friday morning, Helen “Danger Ass” from the Café Décor Team led a busload of participants on an Urban Safari art tour around San Francisco. Highlights of the tour included a stop to see Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito’s sculpture, “Ecstasy” in its current installation at Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley and a trip to the famous murals of San Francisco’s Mission district.
After the art tour, Summit guests could choose to attend optional courses called “pods.” Cat, our Burning Man Sysadmin Mistress led a Mailman Training session, Megs gave a Regional Resource Tour presentation, Harley K. DuBois gave a presentation on Running Effective Meetings, and Jennie Kay from Monterey led a pod called “Thinking Outside the Bar” where she offered creative ways to bring local communities together.
The first ever Convectional Caucus took place at the Bently Reserve on Friday afternoon. A total of 37 Burning Man departments, arts groups, theme camps, non-profits, and other community organizations set up convention-style information tables where Summit attendees could learn about their various philosophies, processes, and ambitions. The Caucus was a tremendous success and provided a unique platform for Regional Contacts and other Community Leaders to interact with BM Staff and Bay Area groups in significant ways.
In the early evening, Larry Harvey addressed a crowd of 500 on the origins of the 10 Principles, the future of the Burning Man Regional Network, and the spirit of gifting. Larry thoughtfully explained that the 10 Principles were created in response to the growing desire for a year-round Regional Network and as a way to help guide those who wished to create “regional” Burning Man events. Many in the crowd were moved to tears when Larry paid homage to a recently deceased friend and coworker, Joy, and illuminated her kindness and generous spirit. We will be posting the full video of the speech here on the Burning Man website by the end of the week.
Following the Caucus, many participants headed over the the 1:AM Gallery for a Defenestration gallery show and fundraiser. For more information on the history of Brian Goggin’s work, visit the Defenestration website.
On Saturday, the Regional Summit attendees took part in a full day of discussions, activities, and presentations. “King” Richard Martin, one of our newest Regional Contacts from Melbourne, Australia, gave a keynote address on the Oz Burn Seed Gathering and on the evolution of the outdoor festival community in Australia and the various movements what will be the first Regional burn in Australia in June, 2010.
Marian Goodell and Andie Grace gave a talk on the Evolution of the Regional Network that was followed by a large group discussion. In the afternoon, Eric Griswold from Wisconsin gave a presentation on the BurningSNOW Center in Milwaukee and the Summit attendees participated in a Conflict Resolution workshop.
Throughout the weekend, Regional Contacts, Community Leaders, and Burning Man staff led courses in public relations, intellectual property, succession planning, community art grants, volunteer management, special events, participatory culture, and partnering with local government agencies to create public art events, using technology to foster local community. These smaller group courses give Summit attendees a chance to delve further down into the subject matter that is relevant to them in their particular leadership roles and afford them the opportunity share their experiences with one another.
On Saturday night, the Summit attendees had a networking dinner with the BRAF Advisory Board, the Black Rock Solar Board, Burners Without Borders and members of the core Burning Man staff. Afterwards, many of the participants changed into their Burner finery and migrated over to 550 Barneveld for the annual Burnal Equinox Flambe Lounge event.
Sunday morning was devoted to the World Café, a small group discussion format that Burning Man has used in various staff retreats and at previous Regional Leadership Summits. Designed to engage participants in a thorough exploration of 12 different topics, the World Café was a favorite amongst Summit attendees. The World Café format has proven to be an effective way to spark conversation about the larger issues that Regional Contacts and Community Leaders face in their local Burning Man communities and as part of the Regional Network.
Later on, Dave Koren, founder and producer of Figment in New York City screened a short video on their event on Governor’s Island and gave an overview of their groundbreaking public arts project.
On Sunday evening, the closing reception and toast marked the end of a truly meaningful weekend for all. Everyone signed “yearbooks,” gave big hugs, and made plans to reconnect at various regional events and at the Regional Network Center on Playa and to continue their threads of conversation throughout the year.