As we reflect on Black Rock City 2018 and begin preparing for 2019, one area we believe needs some extra love and attention is our approach to theme camps and other “residential” areas of Black Rock City. For our purposes, “residential Black Rock City” is defined as any location and any way people live in our temporary community in the desert — placed camps, open camping areas, walk-in camping, etc.
As the event in the desert has evolved and our culture gains more traction and attention in mainstream society, questions and concerns have been raised around the size of camps, relative inclusivity or exclusivity, requirements for interactivity, and the placement process. How might camps continue to grow and change? Where do we stand on turnkey, “plug and play,” or convenience camping? What course are we charting for the next five to 10 years?
This is an important moment to dig in and strengthen our culture.
So what is the Burning Man organization doing?
In 2017, we launched Project Citizenship, an intentional effort to uphold some of the values and practices that make Burning Man events so special and meaningful for the participants who create them. This year, as part of those ongoing efforts, we established a group charged specifically with creating a vision for how we live in Black Rock City. Instead of reacting to situations and trying to figure out what to do after the fact, it’s time to design a focused vision and align our efforts and actions to that vision.
The Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting group is made up of leaders from camps, community members, Burning Man Project’s Board, Regional Contact leadership, Placement Team members, and Burning Man Project Staff. This visioning group is responsible for examining questions such as:
- How and why are camps placed?
- What do camps need from the organization in order to thrive? What does Black Rock City need from camps in order to thrive?
- What is the role of the Placement Team and how can it best serve the evolving needs of both camps and the organization?
- How has the growth of camps affected Black Rock City culture?
- What levels of engagement should be required for receiving formal camp placement?
- What is the role of money and Decommodification in camps and camp culture at large?
- How does placement affect the overall culture of Black Rock City and Burning Man?
Our goal is to create a clear, actionable vision that addresses our current challenges, sets a course for where we are going, and can inform potential changes to placement and other policies in the future.
Here’s where you come in.
We need your input and thoughts. If you have ever lived in Black Rock City, we want to hear from you! A vision for residential Black Rock City won’t go anywhere unless that vision is conceived collaboratively by camps and participants — the groups of people who will create the Black Rock Cities of the future. Whatever we come up with won’t be realized unless it’s guided and supported by the Burning Man community at large.
Are you ready? Here’s how to participate:
- Fill out this survey. It will take around 30 minutes to complete. We’ll ask you about city planning, camp size and culture, money and decommodification within camps, and more. If you’ve ever lived in Black Rock City, please fill out the survey. The survey deadline is Thursday November 8 at 11:59 pm PST.
- Participate in a community conversation in your area. We’ve partnered with camps and regional communities all over the world to host deeper discussions around these topics and to share notes with the visioning group as qualitative data. These are all happening now until the end of November! Check out the listings by location and thank you to everyone hosting!
- Host a community conversation. You can organize your own conversation, using a kit we’ve created that includes suggested discussion format, facilitator tips & tricks, questions to ask, and how to submit the input and feedback to the visioning group. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the kit. Schedule a date, time, and location (in person or virtual) and, if you’d like, we’ll add it to the listing above so others can join you. You can also host a conversation with just your camp.
- Join the Facebook group. Post the notes from your community conversation in this public Facebook group so others can see all the threads as they develop. Post your individual thoughts after taking the survey in the group or as a comment on this Burning Man Journal post.
- Share the survey. Share this post and the survey link widely with your fellow Burners, campmates, and friends. We want to hear from folks who are already tuned in (like you reading this) and from folks who are less tuned in, or perhaps haven’t been to Black Rock City in a while.
- Stay tuned. We have some ideas for future virtual engagement, and participation opportunities at events like the 2019 Theme Camp Symposium.
This is community-wide engagement. That means this vision won’t reflect any one individual’s feedback. The visioning group will analyze the input gathered, keep you informed, and provide feedback on how our community’s input influences the eventual vision of this project. This visioning group will meet regularly through spring 2019, and we’re excited to see how this effort evolves.
With the 10 Principles in mind and our best intentions as heart, we’re confident we can set a clear path for Black Rock City’s future.
Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting Group*
Bravo (Placement Team), Jennifer Warburg (Boom Boom Womb Camp), Jess Hobbs (Flux Foundation and Flaming Lotus Girls), Kari Gregg (Philanthropic Engagement for Burning Man Project), Kimba Jorgensen (Facilitator & Man Pavilion Project Manager), Lauren Brand (Varsity Camp & Cirque Gitane), Level (Placement Team), Marisa Lenhardt (Death Guild Thunderdome), Mercedes Martinez (Burning Man Project Board Member and Ashram Galactica), Michael Mikel (Burning Man Cultural Founder), Ray Russ (Community Member), Scotto (Meta-Regional & PolyParadise Village), Shadow (Placement Team), Simone Torrey (Lead Facilitator, WeCharge! Camp), Skywalker (Root Society Camp), Terry Schoop (Community Services Manager), Trippi Longstocking / Victoria Mitchell (Placement Manager & BRC Cultural Direction Setting Project Creator), Wally Bomgaars (Burning Man Staff and Community Member), and Zang (Suspended Animation Camp)
With support and direction from Marian Goodell (CEO and Cultural Founder of Burning Man Project), Harley K. Dubois (Cultural Founder of Burning Man Project), Charlie Dolman (Black Rock City Event Director), and Heather White (Managing Director of Burning Man Project)
*Since it’s not possible to have every camp participate in the visioning group, the camps forming the group represent a cross-section of Black Rock City in terms of camp size and complexity, number of years as an established camp, and camp location. This is a new level of engagement with the Burning Man organization for most of these camps and we look forward to hearing voices from all camps in our survey, social media, and community conversations.
Top photo by Scott London