GLC ’14: Burning Man’s Servant Leaders

glc happy hour

Once GLC participants were well aware that Burner culture is popping off around the world, it was time for an update from HQ. As you’ve probably heard by now, Burning Man became a non-profit this year, and that means major changes to how things operate behind the scenes. A few key Org people stepped up to the GLC podium Saturday morning to explain how that’s all working.


Co-founder Harley Dubois was up first. She’s now the Chief Transition Officer, so she knows better than anybody what all these changes mean. She led off by answering a frequently asked question: no, Burning Man the desert festival won’t change. The whole point of the transition is to help build a global culture based on the model we’ve already created on the playa.

Harley explained that most of the co-founders are sticking around through the transition in more or less the same capacities. Some have stepped back a little bit, others have stepped up, but it’s not going to be a jarring transition. One by one, the various departments and subgroups are being moved over to the jurisdiction of the non-profit, and this comes with lots of sustainability benefits for the culture, including tax benefits for donating.


Next, Heather White, managing director of the Burning Man Project, explained the non-profit’s near-term goals. Basically, its purpose is to support Burners, not to direct them. It’s going to build tools for collaboration, sharing, and other peer-to-peer needs Burners have while making things happen, and it’s going to highlight great art and 10 Principles-driven culture as examples from which the world can learn.

“BMP is not here to create a lot of new projects,” Heather said. “We are here to support.” BMP will handle the overhead of strategizing and coordinating, so Burners themselves can handle the execution. It will do this work in conjunction with other organizations where necessary. “If we don’t know how to help in an area, we’ll defer to others who have better expertise.”

One important aspect of growing the culture that BMP plans to handle is a good fundraising strategy, so all parts of the culture can make the most of available resources. “We don’t want to all be asking the same people for money over and over again,” Heather said.

BMP’s model is “servant leadership.” Heather listed deep listening, empathy, foresight, stewardship, and concentration on the growth of people as the qualities the Org wants to cultivate for itself.


After we heard these visions of the near future of Burning Man, Larry Harvey stepped up to share his trickster reasons why Caravansery, the 2014 Burning Man art theme, is one of his favorites ever.


And Marian Goodell, now the CEO, shared her vision of servant leadership, and why she thinks the ultimate mission of Burning Man culture is to promote peace.





You can follow the ongoing coverage of GLC here on the Burning Blog and on Twitter using the hashtag #bmglc14.

Photos by Sidney Erthal

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.