A Network of Networks
Burning Man is a year-round worldwide creative culture, sustained by formal and informal networks. These networks facilitate the spread of information, the sharing of ideas and meaningful stories, hard-won skills and best practices, and help to keep Black Rock City and regional events around the globe energetic and vibrant. For the past 11 years, our organization has brought network leaders together here in the San Francisco Bay Area for what we call the Global Leadership Conference (GLC). This gathering started with around 80 people in 2007 who were part of our formal network of Regional Contacts and Burning Man Staff.
As time has passed, things have changed and evolved. Our annual conference has grown to over 700 attendees. Our formal network is comprised of 280 Regional Contacts in 37 countries and over 80 official regional events and this network has relationships with numerous other community gatherings, events, and initiatives. We’ve learned that the Regional Network is best called a Global Network, we’ve learned that Regional Contacts are deeply threaded into complex communities and other networks of community leaders that participate in Theme Camps, Regional Events, Civic Arts projects, Burners Without Borders initiatives and beyond. These networks have made significant contributions to the strength and reach of our global creative culture over the years, and we’re committed to supporting their growth and work in the world.
The GLC and our Global Network Moving Forward
With the growth and evolution of the Burner community in mind, we’ve decided, as organizers, to take a pause from hosting our Global Leadership Conference in 2018 to think, to listen and collect input, and to examine the participation, costs, location, and offerings represented by the GLC. We’ll then use this information to contemplate a new vision for the GLC of the future.
We’ve already started planning for GLC 2019, but we anticipate that the conference will look different than it has in the past and will have been reimagined. We’re asking ourselves and this vibrant “network of networks”: “How might our approach to network leadership need to evolve to meet the needs and desires of a growing and thriving global culture?”
Event Lead Mentorship Program
In addition to thinking more expansively about the GLC and approaches to network leadership, we’re examining the ways in which networks within our global community are communicating with one another and how Burning Man can bring value and expertise to those conversations. Last year, we created a program for the network of official Burning Man regional events called the Event Lead Mentorship Program. We paired event leads from around the world with Burning Man Staff in Black Rock City to share stories, participate hands-on together, and learn from one another. We’ve seen positive outcomes of those mentorship relationships extend beyond the playa and we’re considering ways to develop and expand the reach and depth of the program in the coming years.
A Network of Leadership Gatherings
Over the past few years, we’ve also seen an emergence of locally organized leadership gatherings and we’re looking at ways we can strengthen their efforts. This coming year, we’ll be working with organizers of events such as the Southeast Leadership Roundtable and the Mid-Atlantic Summit and with the European Network at our annual European Leadership Summit (scheduled for Spring, 2018) to look at how the key themes and takeaways from these smaller convenings can be shared across the global community for the benefit of the greater whole.
Learning from Other Creative Networks
To expand our thinking, we’re looking outside of our sphere to other creative networks to learn from their approaches to network leadership. We’re learning how they structure their convenings, how they communicate with and enhance the efforts of their participant groups, and how they might imagine working with Burning Man’s Global Network and GLC in the future. It is our hope that the vision and mission of the GLC will evolve and clarify as we learn from other network leaders, as we receive input from the groups we serve, and as we undergo this coming year of thoughtful inquiry.
We are holding space for new and insightful approaches to supporting the evolution of Burning Man’s creative “network of networks” over time. And, whether you’ve come to a GLC or not, we invite YOU to tell us what you think and how Burning Man might support you and your work in the world as creative catalysts. If you have ideas or input for us, we invite you to complete this survey by November 3rd and/or to email us via GLC@burningman.org.
Please also stay tuned to www.burningman-glc.com where we’ll post updates on our progress and future plans as we move through the year ahead.