Help Bring the New Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City to Life!

The Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City is here!

Know before you read: 

  • We wrote the vision from the “we” perspective, and “we” doesn’t just mean the opinion of those who wrote it. What’s envisioned comes from our community’s input. It is everyone’s responsibility to make this vision a reality. “We” means all of us. 
  • We also wrote the vision in the present tense. Some of what’s written is not happening…yet. It’s what we want to be true. It’s where we’re headed. Read it with your future goggles on.
  • As you read this vision, you may wonder about the action plan and the steps the Burning Man organization is and will be taking toward this cultural direction. This vision is just the beginning. In the next phase of work, we will create and facilitate specialized implementation groups. Each group will focus on a particular topic and do the nitty-gritty work of turning the vision into processes, policies, guidelines, and educational materials where needed. These groups will include relevant stakeholders for each topic, such as camp leaders, community members, and Burning Man Project department stakeholders. The vision needed to come first so that we are aligned around where we are going.

The Cultural Direction Setting project launched in October 2018. For the past 10 months, we’ve read over 10,000 people’s thoughts, listened, discussed, and drafted the vision to guide the culture of residential Black Rock City for the next five to 10 years. We hope we’ll begin to feel the effects of the vision in 2019 and to experience it more fully in 2020 and beyond.

The Cultural Vision is available in two formats – online and as a PDF. We’ve also created a shorter snapshot of the Cultural Vision if you’re short on time.  We invite you to read the vision, annotate it, think about it, and talk about it.

Now that this guiding document is out in the world, here’s what happens next. 

Share it: We invite you to bring this vision to your camp, team, collective, fellow Black Rock City citizens, and interested future participants who you know to discuss how you can contribute to bringing this vision to life. At your next meeting, talk about how you as individuals and as a group can take whatever parts inspire and excite you and make them actionable. 

If there’s something your group already does that supports the vision, share it in the comments on this post, in the ePlaya conversation, or on this social network’s related group. Share what you’re planning to take into your own hands. What you share will inspire and help us all in the next phase of making the vision real. 

Join us in the discussion: On the playa, we’ll activate and discuss the vision. In early August we’ll announce all of the talks, Q&As, and opportunities to engage in the desert. We invite you to create opportunities to discuss this at gatherings where these cultural values are needed and being brought to life outside of Black Rock City. 

The next phase: After Black Rock City comes and goes, specialized groups will work on how to implement and operationalize the vision. Each group will focus on a particular topic and turn the vision into the process. Where needed, criteria, policy, guidelines, and educational materials will be created or updated that help us throughout the year and on the ground in Black Rock City.

These groups will include relevant stakeholders for each topic, such as camp leaders, community members, Placement Team members, and Burning Man department representatives. Stay tuned for an announcement about how these groups will be formed and for opportunities to share your input. 

It will take all of us as individuals and as camps to make it real. We hope you will join us in guiding the culture of this city we all love so dearly so that it evolves positively and continues well into the future. 

About the author: BRC Cultural Direction Setting Group

BRC 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) Profile image by Isabelle Horl.

35 Comments on “Help Bring the New Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City to Life!

  • Mark Demma says:

    CDS Team – really appreciate all the time and dedication that went into creating this report and that so much effort was put into getting input from the entire community.

    It will take a while to digest it all, but I feel like it is a good starting point for everyone from individuals, camps to the entire community to take long hard looks at EVERYTHING we are doing and how we can do it better.

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  • Kevin says:

    There is clearly so much thought and care going into this effort. Thanks for involving the community through this process. Before even delving into the details, I think the most important piece is that this shows recognition that there is work to be done to maintain the positive force that is Burning Man.

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  • Simon says:

    I’ve been involved in several “culture definition” projects over the years, and this is the best example I’ve seen of a document which carefully combines learned lessons, founding principles and community feedback into a relatively concise, clear direction.

    Hats off to everyone involved, from interviewees to survey respondents, and of course the Cultural Direction Setting Group.

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  • Cutecumber says:

    What is new in this document that hasn’t been said by the organization in the past 5 years? This seems long on hand wavy feel good concepts to make the board of directors happy and very short on actual action steps.

    Where is the time line? Maybe a 5 year plan? A measureable data point? I’ve seen vision board collages with more detail than I caught reading this entire document which had feedback from 10,000 people.

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    • Cutecumber says:

      Also, please release all the survey data. What are the trends in the responses? Most common complaint? Most common recommendation? Some democracy would be a great way to engage the community on this issue.

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      • Trippi Longstocking says:

        Hi Cutecumber! All of these are excellent questions and many others have expressed similar concerns. As the person who created this Cultural Direction Setting framework and the previous Placement Manager, I’d love to share my thoughts.

        In order to get to the effective action we want to see, we needed a vision first. There have been many perspectives, stakeholders, and voices and therefore many possible directions. While some of what’s in the vision may feel like “no duh!”, in the past we have been pointed in different directions. We’ve struggled with alignment. Some changes that affect our culture have come through over the years, but many have been stalled because we (depending on the situation, “we” has been Placement, the Burning Man organization, camp leaders, and/or the citizens of BRC at large) weren’t pointed in the same direction. This vision provides that cultural direction. That had to come first. I talked about that at this year’s Theme Camp Symposium (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CtcEVL_fgE&t=6s).

        Next (after this vision) comes what I call Phase 2. It’s the implementation phase. It’s taking the tensions we’ve faced in the past that we couldn’t break through and looking at them in light of the vision. How do we implement the vision in the specific areas it will take to make it real? These are complex problems (culture and cultural change is fascinatingly hard!) and will take further effort and community engagement to find the right answers and roll those out. I’m planning a blog post in early August sharing what each of those groups will be working on (I’m literally working to finalize the group objectives this week).

        I know what most people reading this want is the results from the implementation phase! They look at the vision and they want the outcomes now. You don’t know me or have any reason to trust me, but know I’m hell bent on making this vision real and gratefully in a position within the organization to make that happen to the best of my ability.

        You’re also right, it could have been MUCH longer and gone deeper. In our Burning Man context we have to balance not being too specific or prescriptive. Part of what makes Burning Man unique is that we have the space to interpret things differently. If we get too specific, we stifle the ability for people to interpret and go their own way. We can’t lose that. I struggled with that in co-writing this document.

        Finally, we did address the survey data in this blog post: https://journal.burningman.org/2019/03/opinion/serious-stuff/cultural-direction-setting-whats-happened/
        We also did not include any permissions around releasing this data in the survey itself so I feel a bit stuck on that front.

        I hope this context is helpful or at the very least interesting to you and others!

        Trippi

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  • Roberto says:

    All of this says nothing. What’s the plan? Tell people the same things again and again?

    Everyone who cares about the community already knows all this stuff. This is insane corporate language designed to placate people while not actually commiting to doing anything concrete.

    Want to actually change things? Shut down the airport. Stop giving shitty camps so much leniency with placement and dgs. Actually do something about land grabbing and stop squeezing open camping.

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    • Virginia Gerardi says:

      So appreciative of the huge amount of care that went into gathering the data and community input but I tend to agree with you, Roberto. The language in the introduction is unnecessarily, technical corporate-speak, bordering on intellectual snobbery. Stopped me from reading further.

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      • Trippi Longstocking says:

        Hi Virginia and Roberto – I just responded to a comment from Cutecumber above that speaks to some of what you’re saying. Wanted to reply here as well so you get a ping and can read that for more context.

        Virginia – I do hope you were able to get past the introduction and continue reading!

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  • Unfortunately, though this vision talks about change, it does not actually propose any. The quotes from participants are nice. I’m sure there were thousands of good ones. But what policies will change? Disappointing.

    How about talking about looking for signs of concierge camps and how to discretely report them? OSS limits? Decreasing the price of charter flights so more ordinary people can fly? Requiring an inclusive event for camps above a certain size? Where are the new policies that will change things?

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    • Dusty Ass Clown says:

      Agreed…all the feedback and this is it? We need action otherwise what is the point??!

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      • Trippi Longstocking says:

        Charles and Dusty Ass Clown – you’re both right. Without action, what is the point? I’ve left a longer reply to Cutecumber above in the blog comments that addresses why we approached this as vision first, then implementation, action and change. Wanted to reply here to ping you to take a look. Curious what you think.

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  • scott says:

    In the “The Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City” there is this statement, “Open camping and walk-in camping provide unique value to the culture of Black Rock City. Open campers contribute to Black Rock City in groups and as individual participants.” I disagree. The three key principals for camps as I see it are: “no spectators. active engagement. and active interactivity”. Open campers, as they are not placed and moderated camps, fail all three tenents of camps. Open campers are almost by definition, Spectators. They do not contribute to the greater good. There is no interactivity by the members of open camps. There is no engagement, other than as spectators. The three theme camps I have been in have done a good job of enculturation of the campers. I have visited several friends in open camping and have never seen any attempt to organizationally bring 10 principles to their members. No attempt at gifting. Bmorg has much greater management of good LNT through placed camps through the village and camps leaders and mayors. From what I can tell, open camping has poor moop control. There is no direct responsibility for moop in open camping. They get a free ride. I feel that bmorg could increase the use of waps as a more effective tool to manage inbound traffic. Waps are good tools to encourage camp build and camp loyalty. Open campers arrive at the same time after opening and contribute to the multiple hour wait. Encouraging open campers to join approved camps will ultimately increase the number of themed camps and thus increase “interactivity and engagement.’

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    • Traci Streets says:

      Interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing. I started in a small camp with an art car and a placed camp. I thought we were guests of guests that first year. We brought gifts, a tequila bar and a lounge because that’s who we are. We found our tribe. It was every Burner we met. It was fabulous. Bring more than you take and leave it better than how you found it. We did. A few years went by and our camp leaders took some time off. We were open campers. We brought the lounge, more tequila and we incorporated some old friends and new friends too. That open camping experience and our neighbors from near and far have all bonded and we started a new theme camp. Without the open camping we would not have had an organic experience of forming a group and theme camp. I know people who take breaks from being in a theme camp who enjoy a new experience. We need open camping as well. I can honestly say that first year I had no idea that burlap produced mop. I learned that in 2.5 seconds. I’ve never had a bad moop Mark in any camp I’ve been in, place for on our own. I see your points and really believe that most open campers are not just spectators. Thanks for sharing.

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      • Lisa Dickinson says:

        Traci Streets: Your comment is so untrue about open campers! I have been one for 7 of my 8 weeks at Burning Man and have always contributed by having a coffee camp, a dress up camp, a spa camp and by volunteering with the Greeters and meticulously cleaning up my camp before leaving and gathering moop throughout the event on the general playa and streets…. please don’t generalize….. most of the open campers in the neighborhoods I have camped in are participating with food, drinks , games or special small events throughout the week… I have also camped next to large placed camps which are totally closed off to the public and are not participating in any way at all! We shouldn’t have to become part of a large organized group of strangers to become part of Black Rock City, Radical Inclusion!!!!!

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    • Bill says:

      This will be my first burn so ignorance is on my side . Reading through BM list of what and what not to do it was stated best not to join until you see. As one i can participate with the whole. 2 influences in grouping you are only as good as your worst member and pareto suggests 20% fail the litmus test

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    • TipiDan says:

      Many volunteer members of the Project who work building the infrastructure of Black Rock City for the benefit of the organized theme camps are “open campers”.

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    • Roberto says:

      So you’ve only ever visited open camping and that gives you the authority to say they fail at interactivity? Is the only interactivity you care about free shit and big sound camps?

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    • Sassbot says:

      Have to disagree to the open camp comment. My group plans to camp on the outskirts near walk in for the anonymity of it. We’ve all been a part of Shadyvil which has now grown to a village and enjoy the respite away from the constant commotion. We also volunteer heavily and give back in that way. Four of the 6 of us are with medical and do so because we enjoy the interaction it provides but also need the solitude that the open camping experience offers. Or as near as you can get to solitude . Thanks for the input though.

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    • Gretchen says:

      I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but more rules begets more rules.

      In my five years I’ve never camped with a theme camp, always with our friend group which grows each year because new folks come or we meet rad neighbors and told them in. Our campers have been greeters and some of them stay to clean up for weeks after the burn. Participants in the deepest way.

      On top of functional participation we bring a long list of contributions to BRC as a group and as individuals. More than that however, and speaking to you broad generalizations, our neighbors have always been incredible. We help each other, we talk to each other, we feed each other, we support and learn and grow from our individual, small & large group neighbors. And I’ll tell you that the majority of them give a gift or event to the playa. You’re dead wrong in your generalization.

      I have friends that participate in theme camps and friends that run them. The big camps run with their own set of issues as others are pointing out.

      I like the spirit of the burbs!! It’s where it’s at in BRC!

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  • ROCKY says:

    “…open camping and walk-in camping (unplaced areas) will continue to be viable options for groups wishing to participate in Black Rock City.”

    Clearly written by a placed camper & not someone who has had to deal with the ever-worsening land grab issue & near total lack of open camping land mere hours after gates open. Address the issue of huge marked off areas being unavailable. Open camping is going to have to start moving out to the open playa behind the city soon. Open campers’ contributions to the city seem to be less valued than those of theme camps, as demonstrated by the ever expending DGS tickets and ever shrinking general sale tickets. The suburbs are SO much more inclusive & spontaneous but it’s almost becoming necessary to start or join a placed camp just to be able to participate in TTITD.

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  • Cindy Butter says:

    The online community was executed (killed) by BMorg years ago. I think it’s kinda funny how recently there’s been a push to rally the dead community back to life.

    If you didn’t kill the community, rather than 2,000 letters to BLM in support of the even, you would have at least 20,000 and you would have got your 100k population.

    So forgive us if we don’t care too much anymore. There’s only about 100 or 200 people to read this blog anyway. We call that ‘progress’ or ‘evolution’.

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  • Sue says:

    “We think Burning Man has great application to the world, but a larger iteration can only occur as people incorporate the essential ethos of it. The Ten Principles are meant to describe that ethos, that way of life; and then, by their own inspiration and by collaboration with others in the everyday world, people will find applications that are as various as the many gifts they bring to it. It has to be culturally transmitted that way.”
    – Larry Harvey

    Perhaps when people live the ethos during Exodus a positive impression might actually be made on the surrounding communities. My experience over 12 years is that burners show their worst face to the world as soon as they hit the paved road. No respect for anyone on the road including themselves. You (we) aren’t making the compelling argument you think you are. And I don’t appreciate having my “culture” controlled by people who won’t see what is really happening, and for whom it is easier to talk much, repeat much, and do little. You are killing open camping with words, for a purpose that you cannot admit. You refuse to move against plug and play camps with action. I’m not impressed.

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  • Wizard says:

    Fifteen pages, which can be summarized as: The 10 Principles are good.

    Absolutely no roadmap, no plan, no concrete actions. What a waste of so much time, effort and energy on the part of so many BRC citizens who actually wanted to see substantive changes.

    Everyone associated with this document should be ashamed of themselves for wasting our time and dangling hope in front of us.

    SMH.

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    • Trippi Longstocking says:

      Hi Wizard – I want to see substantive change too! But the vision had to come first. I replied to Cutecumber’s comment above explaining more about why I/we approached this in the manner we have. I totally hear this feels like hope has been dangled. You’re right, it has been. And I know that until the outcomes are real, it’s hard to trust or believe the change will happen. That’s the next phase of work. Curious if you think we should have waited and not shared this vision until all the policies/changes/etc are rolled out?

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  • Milda says:

    Excuse me, I read this a few times now, but where IS the Vision? I read lot of words with sad resemblance to a wishy-washy annual report or a corporate PR speech on sustainability/social responsibility issues that has no actual desire to actually commit and do. I get no sign of action, agility and courage. At the end of the timeline, I see the end. Power to the Regionals. Burner! Take a stance, protest, burn locally or start your own, save the planet (another huge elephant issue in the room) as you go.

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    • Trippi Longstocking says:

      Hi Milda,

      First, go Regionals! Yes.
      Second, I’ve replied more thoroughly to a similar comment from Cutecumber in the blog above. I don’t want to repeat it here again because it will make this comment thread unnecessarily long for others to read through. I gave some of my perspective on why we’re approaching this as vision first, implementation and change second.

      From my perspective within the organization, it took courage for us to align around a vision in the first place. I understand doing so it can feel corporate. My question would be, how could it feel less corporate? I’m curious your perspective. It’s tough when you co-write so many voices together and are communicating to such a wide audience about such big picture things to *not* sound corporate by default, even if you tried to not sound that way (which we did, though perhaps not hard enough). AND there’s obviously bigger courage to come in rolling this out, which every part of me is excited to push forward. :)

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  • Virginia Gerardi says:

    OH, and please stop wasting time and resources on silly graphic headers for blogs. You are not SELLING a message.

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  • King Bee says:

    I read this once quickly and felt a bit confused. Then I read it a second time with much more care, and realized that the introduction is really important for understanding the us of the “we” perspective and the present tense.

    I salute the work of the group which so meticulously gathered the ideas and opinions and visions of a huge chunk of the BRC citizenry, and then compiled this collective wisdom in a series of statements.

    In this way, I see the document as a deeper unfolding of the 10 principles, and as a way of owning and inviting others into ownership of the them.

    It’s been easy for me to complain about the “plug and play” camps, but wasn’t always easy for me to articulate why they offend me so.

    Reading these vision statements gave me a chance to reflect deeper and to solidify and support my criticism of that particular approach to theme camping.

    I learned a great deal from the document, and I appreciate that it is not a “final” product, but rather an invitation into a deeper dialogue built upon this strong foundation of communal understanding.

    Thank you all!

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  • Dusty Ass Clown says:

    Am I missing something? What action is actually being taken to accomplish any of this? The people destroying the culture sure as hell won’t be reading this…hope there’s more than just idealistic corporate speak to come…

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    • Demonstrated Community Benefit says:

      A vision is typically a statement of this nature about the way we want things to be, after which a roadmap and specifically executable steps are developed around that vision. Think of it as “you can’t get where you want to be if you don’t know what that is, but once you determine that, you can start making the map to get there.”

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  • Trancetina says:

    Just a little feedback from a first timer: it all reads like a lot of beating around the bush. You sense a problem but what IS the problem? So much vagueness. What IS the problem? Tell me.

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  • Shenanigans says:

    Sigh. I’m kinda sorry I spent so much time and earnest energy filling out that long and detailed survey. Trippie has stated many, many times in the comments above that we needed a VISION first, before we take action. But… that’s what the 10 principles ARE, is it not? And those have been around for decades. Act on that! And Marian wrote a very inspiring acknowledgement of what needed to change already months ago, did she not? Was that not the BMOrg’s pep talk/action plan/vision, being relayed to us in an inspiring (but now seemingly empty) JackRabbit article?
    I spent HOURS reading and responding to the Environmental Impact Statement because of a call to ACTION from the BMOrg. Well, we, as the Burning Man community members are giving YOU, BMOrg, a call to action as well. Will you not respond to us with the same urgency as we responded to you?

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  • I do not like to advocate more rules and yet this might be a good idea: Requiring an inclusive event for camps above a certain size?

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