In 2017, we launched Project Citizenship, a cross-departmental effort to address some problematic behavioral trends in Black Rock City and to emphasize the importance of participation. The overarching theme is to instill a sense of citizenship in Black Rock City participants and Burners worldwide, and to inspire them to espouse our ideals in their own communities. Anecdotal and data-based evidence (gathered through the BRC Census & Event Operations teams, participant feedback, internal staff dialogues, and extensive outreach to Regional Contacts and community leaders) suggested that some participants, both new and experienced, are not invested in contributing to Burning Man culture and community, are attending the BRC event as spectators, and generally aren’t “getting it.”
So what have we actually done? Each year we pick a few key cultural priorities to address and we work on projects around them. Topics have included personal responsibility, Leaving No Trace, being kind to yourself and others, being prepared, contributing, and celebrating the small. Project Citizenship primarily takes shape through a number of communications-related campaigns.
If you bought a ticket to Black Rock City through the Directed Group Sale, Pre-Sale, or Main Sale over the last two years, you received a series of emails from the desk of our Event Operations Director, Charlie Dolman. These messages covered how to do a better job of leaving no trace, issues around consent, and lots more about how to be a contributing citizen of Black Rock City. You’ve opened these at more than double the rate you open the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter — thank you for reading! You can re-read or check out all of Charlie’s emails here. Share them with your friends!
We’ve produced a few videos that highlight some important topics on playa like Leaving No Trace, reducing traffic through Exodus preparation, and not going to our medical stations to get your papercuts taken care of. The content on our Instagram feed has also intentionally shifted over the last year. The internet seems full of images of beautiful Black Rock City people and art, so we’ve been sharing a side of the Burning Man experience that doesn’t seem to get enough attention: the work it takes to make it all possible. Through guest posts, customized graphics, new hashtags, and video projects, we’re celebrating one of the key components of Burning Man culture: the work is just as important (and oftentimes just as much fun) as the play.
In March 2018, we held our seventh annual Theme Camp Symposium, a day-long program of learning and teaching about camp leadership, logistics, culture, and placement. In an effort to make sure the content is available to anyone who could not attend in person (capacity was limited to 250 participants), we live-streamed the first half of the symposium online. Produced in cooperation with Motorbike Matt from the Burning Man Webcast team, the stream drew more than 600 live participants and has over 5,000 views. The video is publicly available on our YouTube channel.
You almost definitely noticed the mandatory acculturation quiz in Burner Profiles and on the ticketing website. Though it may be a bit tedious to complete (we’re working on making it better), the point of the quizzes is to make people stop and think about what they’re committing to. We firmly believe that our culture will benefit from people reading more about preparing for life Black Rock City, the 10 Principles, and how to be a good citizen before they buy tickets.
Like any city, Black Rock City is unfortunately not immune to the realities of sexual misconduct. In 2018, as part of Project Citizenship, there was a multi-department effort to update and consolidate information about the resources available to anyone who may need them. You can find all of that here.
When you got through the BRC Gate last year, did you notice that the Tip Sheet was combined with the Bureau of Erotic Discourse + Zendo handout? These were traditionally two separate printed pieces, but in a push to reduce waste and help leave no trace, we redesigned these tools to fit on one document. We will continue to find ways both large and small to reduce our footprint.
These are just a few of the things we’re doing through Project Citizenship, and we look forward to stepping up our efforts for 2019 and beyond. Our focus areas for this year are Exclusivity/Radical Inclusion, Decommodification and the commercial exploitation of Burning Man art & culture, and Greening Your Burn (focusing on environmental responsibility and camp innovations).
Communications campaigns and community outreach are useful, but we recognize that organizational policy changes are also necessary to steer the culture ship in the direction we all want to see. Stay tuned for an upcoming Journal post from Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell on that and other important topics.
Lastly, we can’t do this essential cultural work without you. Acculturate your campmates before you get to playa, think of how you can shift behavior amongst your friends in your home communities, help your neighbors out! Project Citizenship is led by ALL of us.
Top photo by Lukasz Szczepanski