Introducing The Burning Man Project

Greetings Burning Man Community,

We’re thrilled to announce the August 5th launch of the non-profit Burning Man Project, an exciting new venture in the ever-evolving history of the Burning Man cultural experiment.

Fiscally sponsored by the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the primary purpose of The Burning Man Project is to uphold and manifest the values described in the Ten Principles of Burning Man. In this sense, “Burning Man” is understood not as an event, but a way of life lived consistently with the Ten Principles. The Burning Man Project will provide infrastructural tools and frameworks that allow people to apply the Ten Principles in many communities and spheres of endeavor. It will include projects in these program areas: Arts, Civic Involvement, Culture, Education and Social Enterprise.

A little background …

People often assume that the Burning Man event already IS a non-profit, since that’s what one would logically think given our philosophical bent, but in fact it’s run by Black Rock City LLC, formed in 1997, after the highly-chaotic 1996 event clearly illustrated the need for an organization for the growing phenomenon of Burning Man. At the time, a Limited Liability Corporation made the most sense; the Burning Man event was a wild and wooly encampment of 8,000 people, and the organizers needed a way to legally organize that event’s management and to inure themselves from personal liability. But running the event as a private corporation didn’t always mesh well with the philosophy of the Burning Man experiment; it was, however, the right tool for the job at the time.

Flash forward 15 years, however, and that structure has begun to appear somewhat obsolete. The Burning Man event itself has grown into a massive, fully-functioning metropolis, to be sure; more uniquely, though, it now comprises a global year-round Regional Network, as well as several spin-off endeavors (the Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar and Burners Without Borders). These efforts have emerged spontaneously, supported in various ways by the Burning Man organization, each organically evolving to propagate the Burning Man cultural ethos throughout the world in tangible ways.

Stable in our footing, and eager to take the grand Burning Man experiment to the next level, it was time to bring the Burning Man culture back around to its philosophical roots, better aligning the organizational structure with our values. So, we are proud to announce the creation of the Burning Man Project, a non-profit organization designed to affect the world by applying the Ten Principles to a variety of multidisciplinary programs and projects.

As a non-profit entity, the Project will be afforded new opportunities for partnerships, affiliate relationships and fundraising activities that will allow it to multiply and magnify the growth of Burning Man culture, while ensuring that its philosophical center remains intact.

So, what does this mean for the Burning Man event itself? For now, while this new non-profit finds its bearings, the annual Burning Man event will be conducted under the auspices of Black Rock City LLC. In time, once the new organization has its footing, the Burning Man event itself will become part of that non-profit Burning Man Project.

The Burning Man event will continue to be the primary touchstone for our far-flung diaspora — a unique opportunity for people to gather and connect, to inspire and be inspired. But, as the spokes of the wheel grow, we fully expect (and encourage) the center of gravity to move towards the outer ring of an expanding sphere of influence, creating ever-stronger centrifugal forces, the effects of which we can only begin to imagine. We have long supported the emergence of new ideas and initiatives out of this grand experiment of Burning Man. It is the goal of The Project to increase their momentum.

Of course, Burning Man culture is all about participation … and we welcome and encourage YOU our community to do what you do so well: join in this new adventure, lend your skills, talents and creativity to the effort, just as you do in Black Rock City. We invite discussion about what you think the Burning Man Project could do (we welcome you to start in the comments below). Where it goes from here is largely up to you. We hope that you’re as excited as we are about the future and what it will bring.

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase

Will Chase is Burning Man's former Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He was the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Burning Man Journal, and content manager for Burning Man’s web properties. He also oversaw the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social media presence. Will first attended Burning Man in 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004 until he transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009.

18 Comments on “Introducing The Burning Man Project

  • affinity says:

    And just to make you smile, the San Francisco Arts Commission just posted their photos of the Burning Man Project Launch! I love this collaborative atmosphere!

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  • John Glueck says:

    Now THIS, LLC & Project, I am quite interested in seeing pan out… The opportunities that are available, the talent, drive, creativity and all that “is” Burning Man has more than a few avenues that you could take. I believe that the unique environment that this new venture is built upon, will find all of us witnessing and doing great things….

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  • ellerycELlery says:

    Your post doesn’t particularly outline the significant difference between LLC and NPC, but – perhaps like BRC itself – developments wait to be seen. Burning Man has been one of the best things to happen in my life, so I hope we can evolve together.

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  • davids4250 says:

    I have never been to Burning Man, and will probably never be able to go, but Burning Man has had such a tremendous effect on my life in so many ways. I have encouraged my friends and family to go, and I support BWB, BRS< and BRAF. You guys are all so important to me.

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  • Grace Davis says:

    Wow! Perfect name for the reality of what BM is really all about! People who are still holding their eternal burn notice and have not yet repented of their sin and turned to Jesus for salvation. Watch 23 minutes in hell,on You tube and learn how NOT to burn! Only Jesus can cancel your eternal burn notice! Look up 2 live and live ready!

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  • Son of Grace Davis says:

    Mom, go back to your room and take your meds. Jeez.
    (I am so telling Dr. Medlin that you are talking crazy again.)

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  • Dusty Bacon says:

    VERY excited by this. I’ve been conversing with a lot of veteran burners since tickets sold and have begun to wonder. Why only one BIG event? (yes, I’ve been to some regionals, and lots of tiny fundraisers) The time has come for two “official” LLC run events. The highway out to the Black Rock Desert can’t handle an expansion of the current permit. People shouldn’t drive all the way to Nevada from NYC. Split the resources of the LLC and DPW, create a Second Labor Day Burning Man. Live out the LLC’s promise of localized events.

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  • I hear the Burning Man Project aims to create FIRE ritual and ceremony sites here in San Francisco! I’ve been *writing* for this to happen for 4 years, and now it’s a reality. Burning Man takes place right in the middle of sidereal Leo. I doubt that they are Aware of their sidereal astrological connection yet, but if things go my way then we will see 3 Fire Ceremonies a year in S.F. at the mid-point of each sidereal Fire sign.

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  • Squire says:

    I think this a VERY STRONG move in the right direction. Knowing quite a bit about the difference between the non-profit and for-profit worlds, it makes the most sense to me to move from a “bottom-line” profit driven model into a model whose goal is to improve communities. I approve! The real defining factor is who sits on the board of directors since they execute the mission of the non-profit.

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  • Theodore says:

    Temporary to Permanent : such as hunter/gatherer tribal burners looking for sex, drugs and R & R (not necessarily in that order) once a year to Electronic System Integrators in Poly, entheogen, space music communities ! Internet integrated, Solar powered, organic garden/greenhouse fed, electric or bike transports from motor pools, direct democracy, computer/robotic production and local exchange networks ( (, ( Start : BMP buys land with water, builds first community. Finish : replicate worldwide.

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  • realityisnt says:

    Like Theodore said, for whatever reason humans strive for some illusion of permanence in the world, and a township is the eventuality. A community inspired by the BM experience that, once a year, throws a big f=ing party on Labor Day weekend. It is fascinating to imagine…can a Yes based society live, no thrive, within a broader Fear based one? Let’s find out!

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  • Lisa says:

    omg I have been there for 3 years and and i thrive on the experence to involve my hushand and myself can wait to meet you all

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  • Admin says:

    As a neighbor to Burning Man and many participants (a few from our company), we took the opportunity to talk about this in our monthly strategy news letter (below)
    September 1, 2011

    What’s the Burning Man’s succession plan?

    This week a dry, desert lake-bed has transformed into the third largest city in Nevada for the week-long counter-culture festival Burning Man. The event has passionate followers who travel across the globe to experience its unique expressions of community, art and self-reliance. This year, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey announced that Burning Man will change from being a Limited Liability Corporation, managed by a few owners, to a non-profit organization governed by a 17-member board. The transition is slated to occur in a three-year time frame.

    It is going to be an interesting case study in change management. Participants currently pay over $300, and some believe paying this kind of cash gives them a modicum of ownership. Others believe the LLC can manage the transition the way it sees fit. Keeping these “customers” happy will require individuals with strong communication skills, no doubt. Leadership will be key in paving the path for these and other burning issues.

    With so much innovation in existence at this event, it seemed fitting this week to read the Center for Creative Leadership’s thoughts on spanning gaps between current leadership talent and future leadership talent. Here’s their suggested approach:

    • Know your needs: Identify the capabilities managers will need now and in the future to execute and sustain the organization’s strategy.
    • Create a leadership strategy: Make sure leadership’s character and skills are aligned with long-term needs as defined by strategy.
    • Develop goals for leadership development: Wherever needed, create opportunities for feedback, evaluation and coaching to make sure managers and emerging leaders understand their own strengths and weaknesses as they plug into the purpose of the organization.
    • Create systems: Make sure succession planning includes the recruitment, and development of talent that aligns with the organization’s values and vision.
    • Evaluate: What metrics will help you confirm that the right leaders are in the right place? What systems and resources might be needed to do so?

    Addressing leadership in a strategic way is a small detail in the overall change management process. With change comes some form of resistance 100% of the time and it is a multi-pronged process. Yet if any organization can offer alternatives to approach change, Burning Man can. With displays of innovation, creativity and collectivism in a grand scale that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, we’ll see what kind of organizational structure survives when the dust settles.

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  • cosmic says:

    If only everyone knew how close this was to being eliminated, would they see the brilliance in this evolution. Thanks to the wise, and determined minds collectively absorbing 25 years of experience; and success, that the growth of Burning Man will continue to make change in the default world.

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  • Mark Crews says:

    Future Burning Man Ticket Sales Proposal:

    Is it possible in the future to basically issue passes to the “major camps” that bring the “super structures”, “major music venues” (eg. Nexus, Root Society), and “major art installations – so that they don’t have to worry about competing for tickets with all us “do-nothing spectators”.

    These “veterans”, that you probably know personally would still have to pay for these passes, but need not worry.

    So, there would be a registration process and approval based on “requirements” to be issued a pass as a “major venue”.

    Then, the tickets would be issued in the lottery for commoners.

    And you (BurningMan Proprietor) won’t have to worry about the major “venues” pulling out because they don’t know if they can even get through the front gate.

    And as me (common spectator) I don’t have to worry about being awarded a ticket to only end standing around in the middle of a dried-up sea bed with a bunch of spectators such as myself, without all the “eye-candy” that is brought from you “real burners”!

    You all need to think about this before you all are “dried-up”!

    Tell me what you think?


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  • Mark Crews says:

    You know as I sit back and think about it some more, in the martial arts there is always an “inner-circle”, and there are those who are just “starting out”, and those who are “earning” to be “brought in” to the “inner-circle”.

    The same idea should be reflected upon in how you view your community. You can still honor “no exclusion” and yet honor those who have committed their entire lives and whole year to make “your” event worth visiting by those “of us” who are just “starting out”.


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  • Thermal says:

    Its nice to see how this “non-profit” is turning out.. what with the skyrocketing tickets, stupid lottery and ticket system, scalped tickets, refusal of responsibility on the part of WHOMEVER is controlling the event now, and embrace of plug n’ play resort camps. Great. Now I can move on to other ways to spend my time and money…

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