Last fall, we launched Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting to better understand and address the state of residential life in Black Rock City and where it’s going. The goal is to create a clear, actionable vision that will guide residential BRC culture for the next five to 10 years.
In this update we’ll share what’s happened so far, and how you can give us input on the draft vision at the upcoming Theme Camp Symposium March 23-24. As more and more camps are requesting placement, and as our culture has become widely-known, this is a critical time to dig in and guide our community towards a desirable future.
Marian Goodell’s recent piece on Cultural Course Correcting mentions a few cultural issues that have arisen over the last few years and changes that are being made to address them. The Cultural Direction Setting group is working in tandem with these and other organization-wide initiatives to guide the future of Burning Man culture in Black Rock City and beyond.
What’s Happened So Far?
A visioning group was formed including leaders from camps, community members, Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors, Regional Contact leadership, Placement Team members, and Burning Man Project staff.
In the fall, we launched a variety of feedback mechanisms to hear your stories, opinions, and experiences with residential life in BRC. We opened an extensive survey that received over 4,804 responses from 78 countries; we conducted 62 personal, in-depth interviews with camp leaders, artists, organization leaders, and staff from across the Burning Man spectrum; we read thousands of comments left on the Journal post, the Facebook group, and ePlaya; and we digested the notes from 19 community conversations hosted around the world.
Using a kit we created, community conversations were hosted in Austin, Texas; Bishop, California; virtually in Brazil; Eugene, Oregon; Kimberly, Idaho; Marina Del Ray, California; New York, New York; Portland, Oregon; Queerborhood participants in San Francisco; Reno, Nevada; Sacramento, California; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; Seattle, Washington; Kyiv, Ukraine; and Vancouver, British Columbia. There were also three virtual community conversations with Burning Man staff.
We collaborated with the BRC Census Team on the survey so we could determine how representative our survey results were compared to the 2018 BRC population, and were happy to find the survey response accurately represented the BRC population.
A diverse group of enthusiastic Burners chimed in, providing detailed and passionate feedback on what has and hasn’t been working. Many wrote thoughtful and lengthy responses — so much time and effort was put into the answers. Here are some interesting statistics on who we heard from:
After the feedback was collected, our visioning group of 19 people spent days reading and analyzing the responses. We heard your thoughts on topics like criteria for placed Theme Camps, convenience in camps, the role of money, and how all of these variables and many more impact Black Rock City culture.
What We Heard
Black Rock City is a complex community. It is a city full of different citizens with a variety of needs like in any other metropolis. On many occasions, survey results showed strong, divergent opinions on topics about residential life.
These questions are multi-faceted and it’s not as simple as saying the majority opinion is “right” and the minority is “wrong.” The quantifiable results only tell part of the story. Sometimes they were even misleading. The written comments to Yes/No questions often started with “Yes, but…” or “No, but…”, leading us to realize people sometimes used the Yes/No options to make similar points. Our analysis is based on the thousands of answers to “Why?” for the 35 qualitatively based survey questions, which is more than 100,000 separate comments.
Instead of trying to quantify “rights” and “wrongs”, we want to tell the story of what we heard by weaving together similar survey questions and integrating the interviews, community conversations, and online comments. Some quantified results are included when the numbers truly were aligned with the comments behind the answer.
We look forward to sharing the specifics about what we heard in a day or two, right here on the Burning Man Journal. We’ll share the major themes that emerged from the community engagement, and quotes from the surveys, interviews, community conversations, and online responses. Stay tuned!
We Still Want to Hear From You
If you want to participate in the draft stage of the vision, join us virtually for the upcoming Theme Camp Symposium. At the Symposium we’ll share where we’re at with the vision itself, the themes that are emerging, and the series of perspectives that are aligning toward the vision.
We want to know what you think, and we will get real-time feedback from some of the most active and engaged camp leaders in Black Rock City. If you’d like to watch and participate, there will be a Facebook livestream of the event on March 23-24 (there are no more in-person seats available).
You’re welcome to join us virtually for the whole weekend, or if you’d just like to tune in for Cultural Direction Setting content, we’ll be presenting our draft work on Saturday, March 23, from 11:00am-12:30pm Pacific Time. We’ll follow that with a live-streamed breakout session where participants can give feedback on the draft vision from 2:00pm-3:15pm Pacific Time. You can give your feedback virtually by adding comments on the livestream.
We will take the feedback we hear at the Theme Camp Symposium and use that input to guide the next draft of the vision, and we’ll provide another update after the Symposium. After that, we’ll share the vision and cultural direction for residential Black Rock City.
Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting Group*
Bravo (Placement Team), Jennifer Warburg (Boom Boom Womb Camp), Jess Hobbs (Flux Foundation, Maker Faire and Flaming Lotus Girls), Kari Gregg (Philanthropic Engagement for Burning Man Project), Kimba Standridge (Facilitator and Man Pavilion Project Manager), Lauren Brand (Varsity Camp and Cirque Gitane), Level (Placement Team), Marisa Lenhardt (Death Guild Thunderdome), Mercedes Martinez (Burning Man Project Board Member and Ashram Galactica), Danger Ranger (Burning Man Cultural Co-Founder and Burning Man Project Board Member), Ray Russ (Community Member), Scotto (Meta-Regional and PolyParadise Village), Shadow (Placement Team), Simone Torrey (Lead Facilitator, bEEcHARGE! Camp, Red Hot Beverly Crew), Skywalker (Root Society Camp), Terry Schoop (Community Services Manager), Trippi Longstocking / Victoria Mitchell (Associate Director and 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 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 hearing voices from all camps in our survey, social media, and community conversations is a critical part of this process.
Top photo by Zang