“But what exactly do you do?” I wail at the poor bastard standing in front of me.
I’m ensconced at the Communications Department desk at Burning Man HQ, blogging for the upcoming GLC, when I make eye-to-eye contact with a real live “Meta”. More than just a “Meta”, Peter is Meta Comms, and he’s talking to me about some Meta sub-committee, but at this stage I just gawp.
Six years deeply embedded in my own community and four years running a Regional Communications Team, and I ain’t heard of no Meta Comms crew. What is this Meta madness that they speak of? And am I the only one who’s arrived late to the Meta Comms party? (Can I get a “hell no” from the peanut gallery?!)
At the GLC, I conduct a very quick and unscientific straw poll of one. I get the same mystified Meta shrug from the Communications Team Lead for Israel’s Midburn — the fastest growing Regional outside the US.
During the Friday morning plenary, the stage fills with more Metas. They’re friggin’ everywhere, matched only by multiple Meta sub-committees: education initiatives, conflict resolution, events, global initiatives and intake, and, of course, communications. What’s next? Meta Metas?
For those attempting to follow along at home, join the club. We’re a culture of diehard dreamers and uber-doers, but that means there are often many fantastic people doing fantabulous things with limited or no knowledge of the other fantastic people doing fantabulous things in their own backyard — let alone the greater Burnerverse.
The GLC was created 10 years ago to remedy some of this. It acts as both a connector and catalyst by bringing community leaders from around the world to share their ideas, inspirations and projects, and to harness the synergy of the event to create even more magic together.
But with new communities coming into the fold all the time (hellllllo, Estonia!) and new Regional events coming online even in the past few weeks (Hola, Argentina!), it can be hard to keep track of each other.
For the newbies who are pouring into these Regional Events, it is often difficult to know who does what in their own event, let alone the plethora of strange acronyms: GLC, BRC, RC — and now even a VLC. How about some ABCs?
And as we grow bigger globally and locally, it will become even more important to connect the initiative and inspiration dots, and ensure that information flows back and forth between Burning Man and the Regionals, between the Regionals, and within each community.
So to keep the meta-information a flowin’, I go straight to the big M — Megs Rutigliano, Burning Man’s Regionals ringmaster — for the word on the word.
Launched in 2010, the Meta Regional Contacts and their committee were created in recognition of the growing and diversifying network of Regional Events and the ever-shifting frontiers of Burning Man culture.
They are a layer on top of the Regional Contacts. These are go-to community leaders who volunteer year-round to nurture community projects and events, and to facilitate communication between local groups and within the global Burning Man Regional Network. There are now 266 of them worldwide.
“We created the Meta Regional Contact role because we saw that there was a need for more mentorship across the network,” Megs says. “People were coming into us as a central organisation to help with conflict resolution and to help them troubleshoot things like financial transparency issues. And what better way to get people the right advice than by people who have been in the trenches and have been out there in the world.”
“The Meta Regional Contacts Committee was also set up to advise Burning Man. When we make big decisions and policy shifts — for example, when Burning Man was transitioning to a nonprofit — having a group of proven, dedicated leaders in the Regional Network advise and serve as a testing ground has been really instrumental,” she adds.
Wanting to know more, I head straight to the Sauce, a.k.a William Funderburk. Sauce was North Carolina’s Regional Contact for 7.5 years before shifting gears to become a Meta. He sees the role of Meta Regional Contact as both conduit and de-centralizer.
“There are 14 of us from all over the world, so the committee is decentralizing the culture as well as the governance, the decision-making and the support from just this group in Burning Man to this group of Regional leaders,” says Sauce.
Misa Rygrova, a Meta from the Czech republic, says the Metas operate as translators too.
“Sometimes the translation between the organization and community needs to be done, using a different language or putting it in an understandable way, so both sides understand each other.”
She says it’s taken the committee a little while to find their place in the Burnerverse, but they are gaining momentum, building the necessary relationships and attracting input from the communities.
For example, my old pal the Meta Comms Subcommittee is launching a Flashlight Storytelling series this year, which will source stories from around the regions for the Burning Man Journal.
Most importantly, Misa sees the introduction of the Meta roles as a sign of the Burning Man times and the strong desire to rock it with the Regionals.“I see it as an open hand — as an offer to really work together and to hear the many voices,” she says.
Wanna make contact with your own live Meta? You can email them at email@example.com.
Top photo by Chuck Revell