Cultural Direction Setting: From Vision to Action

Illustration by Jess Hobbs of how we created the Cultural Vision for Residential BRC

In July we published the Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City, the first phase of the Cultural Direction Setting project that began in October 2018 (you can read all our previous posts here). This vision was created from community feedback and key stakeholders, and will help guide Black Rock City’s residential culture for the next five to 10 years.

We recently initiated Phase 2 of the project, which aims to work on actionable solutions for implementing the Cultural Vision. We are looking to address both the tensions of the past, as well as the aspirations surfaced in the vision and transform them into implementable actions.

There is a lot of work to do, so we’ve broken it down into smaller working groups that will focus on the headings in the vision. Each group will do the nitty-gritty work of turning the vision into new or improved processes, policies, guidelines for actions, and educational materials where needed. Changes will roll out throughout 2020 and beyond. 

How We Formed the Working Groups

Each group has been thoughtfully crafted to include people with different perspectives, opinions, and polarities that reflect the diversity of residential Black Rock City as much as possible. We have invited some awesome camp leaders, open campers, community members, Placement Team members, Camp Development & Support Council members, Burning Man Project department and event staff, and Regional Contacts. We reached out to specific individuals because of their past participation in the Cultural Direction Setting project (i.e. Theme Camp Symposium, online forums, etc.) and/or their expertise around a group’s topic area.

What the Groups Will Do and Who They Are

Several of these groups will do more community engagement (surveying, interviewing, etc.) to guide their specific recommendations, whereas many groups’ topics are already very well covered in last fall’s 4,800+ survey responses. All of the groups have objectives — important guiding questions that need to be answered by this group in the form of recommendations for Burning Man Project’s leadership.

Each group has a facilitator to support the process and guide the conversations. On the design and facilitation team are Bryant Tan a.k.a. Level (Placement Manager), Kimba Standridge (Facilitator and Man Pavilion Project Manager), Simone Torrey (Lead Facilitator of BRC Cultural Direction Setting Project) and Victoria Mitchell a.k.a. Trippi Longstocking (Associate Director and BRC Cultural Direction Setting Project Creator).

Below you can learn more about the groups, a summary of the questions they are aiming to answer, the group members, and their affiliations.  

Group #1 — Placement Team Identity

This group will work on questions related to the Placement Team’s mission, values, structure and culture to support the vision, as well as the Placement Team’s relationship with camps. In addition to the people below, the entire Placement Team will be involved in these conversations.

The team: Bravo (Placement Team & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Captain Vic (Children of Chaos & Camp Development Support Council), DV8 (Census),  KGB (Placement Team), Level (Placement Manager), Marisa Lenhardt (Death Guild Thunderdome and Phase 1 Visioning Group), Shadow (Placement Team & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Simone Torrey (Facilitator), Trippi Longstocking (Facilitator), and Warren Trezevant (Art Support Services & Sonic Runway).

Group #2 — Theme Camp Criteria

This group’s scope is around the definition and criteria of theme camps and villages to align with the cultural vision. This includes looking at the criteria to be in good standing and how to communicate with camps about how well they met the criteria. It will also make recommendations on the Placement Team’s role as curators of residential BRC.

The team: Catnip (Beats n’ Deets), Dr Dilemma (Paradise Motel & Camp Development Support Council), Hazmatt (BRC Business Ops), HepKitten (Placement Team), Hot Water (Placement Team), Level (Placement Manager & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Ratchet (Mudskipper’s Urban Decay Cafe and ICARUS), Skidoo (Placement Team), Spacious (Anahasana Village, Camp Contact & Washington, DC Regional Contact), and Trippi Longstocking (Facilitator).

Group #3 — Support Camps

This group will take a closer look at the contribution of support camps (mutant vehicle camps, art support camps, and work support camps) to BRC. They will examine their needs and criteria for placement. They will also consider the possibility of updating the categories to better serve “hybrid” camps that encompass multiple categories. This group will also discuss ideas to improve inviting layouts. We will also interview people to get more in-depth insights into the needs of hybrid camps. If you’re interested in being interviewed, please fill out the form at the end of this blog post.

The team: Cat Herder (Grateful Floyd [Work Support Camp]), Condor (The Folly Camp Lead & Temple Crew [Art Support Camp]), Dapper (DMV Council), Kimba Standridge (Facilitator), Kye Horton (Burning Man Project Art Department), Quickdraw (Epiffany & Co. [Mutant Vehicle] & Temple Crew), Shadow (Placement Team & Phase 1 Visioning Group), and Skywalker (Root Society [Theme Camp and Mutant Vehicle] & Phase 1 Visioning Group).

Group #4 — Placement Process

This group has the complex task of re-engineering the placement process and timeline to fulfill the part of the cultural vision of a “city where camps know who their neighbors are in advance of the event” and how to make the process of camps being placed most effective and transparent. They are also creating Placement’s urban design mission statement.

The team: Black Beauty (Placement Team), Drew (BurningMelon, ChiCargo), Dr Dilemma (Paradise Motel & Camp Development Support Council), Impulse (Jobi Coffee Tea or Me), Jenn Warburg (Boom Boom Womb & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Level (Facilitator), Marlon Williams (People of Color Camp & Que Viva), Millie McMillan (Pink Heart), Muppet (Placement Team), and The Governess (Placement Team).

Group #5 — Tickets for Camps

In 2019 an unprecedentedly high number of camps asked to be placed in BRC (read more about this in Level’s blog post). What will this mean for camp DGS tickets in 2020 and beyond if the trend of more and more camps asking to be placed continues? This group will work on the criteria for camps to receive DGS tickets, the timing and Placement’s role in distributing these tickets.

Team: Ellen (Menage Flow/Naked Rainbow), Greg (Altitude Lounge), Jeff (Camp Blintzkrieg), Level (Placement Manager & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Monday (Placement Team), Nimbus (Head of Ticketing), and Trippi Longstocking (Facilitator).

Group #6 — Convenience Camps & the 10 Principles

This is the group working on one of the main topics that inspired the BRC Cultural Direction Setting project — convenience camps, plug & play camps, or turnkey camps. As stated in the cultural vision, this group will work on creating “clear language defining how and why camps are not acting in alignment with the 10 Principles and a clear set of standards for what behaviors are in alignment with our culture” and what the consequences will be. They will work on ways to “evaluate a camp’s alignment with our culture based on their behaviors and our interaction with them, rather than relying on generalizations, labels, and assumptions” and recommend ways to better handle camps needing acculturation.

The team: Andy Tannehill (Star Star Roadhouse), Bravo (Placement Team & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Level (Placement Manager & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Mar (La Grange Camp), Papa Bear (Placement Team & Flagging Team), Pele (Camp Mystic & Camp Development Support Council), President (BRC Outside Services Manager), Prince Barron (Yummy RUMInations Camp), Simone Torrey (Facilitator), Trippi Longstocking (Facilitator), and Zang (Suspended Animation Camp & Phase 1 Visioning Group).

Group #7 — Strengthening Our Neighborhoods

The cultural vision says: “Black Rock City’s neighborhoods are vibrant. Theme camps contribute to the culture of our city and engage their fellow participants…Camps share resources, collaborate, reduce their environmental impact, and generate opportunities for intentional interaction.”

This group will look at how camps and everyone can work together to hold each other accountable in service of a healthy Black Rock City, including how camps can: share knowledge and resources; improve individual acculturation, inviting layouts and vibrant streets; and communicate with each other year round.

Team: Bratty Cat (Placement Team), Candyass (Blissfits Retirement Village & Camp Development Support Council), Cucumber (Black Rock Rangers & Gate), Dani Bear (Camp Combobulated in the Mystikal Misfits Naarsfortown Village), Happy (Placement Team), PapaNacho (Regional Contact Argentina & Gauchos del Fuego Camp), Jill (The Hannigan Orphan Endorphin), Kari Gregg (Burning Man Project Education Team & Phase 1 Visioning Group), The Governor / Coop (Comfort and Joy Village), Nathan (Sunrise Diner), Ra (Flat Tire Cafe), Scotto (Meta-Regional, PolyParadise Village & Phase 1 Visioning Group), Simone Torrey (Facilitator), and Yoda (Que Viva and Gender Blender).

Group #8 — Transparent Communication to Residents

As stated in the cultural vision, this group will work on upgrading communications from Burning Man Project, particularly the Placement Team, so camps can better understand the placement process and decisions and continue to be cultural stewards of Black Rock City. This group will create the approach and practice of better communication towards Black Rock citizens and support the other nine groups in communicating their solutions.

Team: Bender a.k.a. Vicky (Flat Tire Cafe), Fixxer (Camp Development Support Council &  Rootpile Camp), Level (Facilitator), Mia Q (Burning Man Project Communications Team), Monday (Placement Team), Natalie Nicol (Disorient), Papa Bear (Placement Team & Flagging Team), Scott a.k.a. Toaster (TCO & Community Organizer), and Yoshi Squiggles (Tectonic & SHIFT Festival)

Group #9 — Camps & Citizenship Beyond the Trash Fence

The cultural vision states that “Black Rock City citizenship goes beyond the trash fence. As members of the global Burning Man community, we are creators, connectors, and cultural ambassadors that bring Burning Man values into the world. We share without evangelism. We share by doing; by example. These culturally aligned efforts are separate from any resources provided in Black Rock City.” The work of this group will be to design ways to collect and share stories of citizenship beyond the trash fence, and how to inspire more of it to happen. It will take a look at how important this will be for the culture of our city in the future.

Team: Ali (Kazbah), Ariel Vegosen (Gender Blender), Jess Hobbs (Flux Foundation, Maker Faire & Flaming Lotus Girls), Kozmik Kat (Placement Team), Marlon Williams (People of Color Camp & Que Viva), Matt Mihaly (Friendgasm & Burn.Life), Mercedes Martinez (Burning Man Project Board & Ashram Galactica), Doc North (Burners Without Borders & Art Support Services), Nicholas Powers (People of Color Camp), Peter Durand (Meta Regional), Sam Goldman (Burning Man Project Philanthropic Engagement), and Simone Torrey (Facilitator)

Group #10 — Open Camping

The cultural vision states that “open camping and walk-in camping provide unique value to the culture of Black Rock City.” This group will explore questions around how well open camping within our city blocks works for various types of open campers, and what approaches and solutions could work better for more types of participants in open camping. It will also look at the conditions that are causing land grabbing and potential solutions, as well as acculturation in open camping. This group will not work on walk-in camping because as a separate stream of support and work began between placement and the walk-in camping community in 2018.

Team: Danger Ranger (Burning Man Cultural Co-Founder & Burning Man Project Board), Level (Facilitator), machine (Placement Team & Flagging Team Manager), Terry Schoop (Community Services Manager), and open campers Adrien Contreras, Diver Dave, Emma Cornell (Cleu Lady), Theo Arnold, and Trish Terribilini.

We are still looking for open campers interested in joining this working group, especially those who are part of a registered mutant vehicle crew. If you are interested in joining, please fill out this form by Friday, November 15. 

How to Get More Involved

We are looking for individuals from support camps to be interviewed by Group #3 – Support Camps and for potential working group members for Group #10 – Open Camping. If you are interested in participating in any of these ways, please fill out this form by Friday, November 15.

Stay tuned to the Burning Man Journal, Jack Rabbit Speaks, and Placement Newsletter for updates on this phase of the Cultural Direction Setting project for Residential Black Rock City. We will share an update on how the process is going in the next few months. Changes will roll out throughout 2020 and beyond.

Thank you for your support for this project, your hard questions, and your concerns. Thank you for caring about our culture!


Top photo: Phase 1 folks present the Cultural Vision to the Theme Camp Symposium 2019 (Photo by Chuck Revell)

About the author: BRC Cultural Direction Setting Group

BRC Cultural Direction Setting Group

Phase 2 of the project involves over 70 individuals across 10 groups that are working to implement the cultural vision across many areas. You can see all of their names and affiliations within the Burning Man community in this blog post. Phase 1 Visioning 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.

7 Comments on “Cultural Direction Setting: From Vision to Action

  • SinglePly says:

    What about a party camp group that addresses the needs of the hundreds of party camps that gift booze and noise?

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    • Jenny says:

      This is a very good question. Did anyone ever go to Burning Man to catch up their sleep? I would argue, no. But that’s just me. So why are so many people out there complaining about the noise? If you haven’t experience sleep-deprevation on the playa then I don’t know why you’re there.

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    • Rockstar says:

      Yes more of those loud camps serving booze 24-7 so the drunks can participate by staggering over to piss between RV’s in the neighboring camp.

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  • Mog says:

    There are GREAT people on the teams! I hope the built environment is given a lot of thought. 1. The roads are too wide. People zoom through without stopping. It’s just like wide roads in suburbs versus narrow roads in older neighborhoods. 2. The book has got be great, and a book! This year camps felt so much pressure to increase the number of events, only to have zero participants thanks to a non-functional book. And enough of us do NOT want an app, because we turn our phone off in Gerlach and leave it off for the duration. 3. Have we thought of streets versus alleys? Streets with the whole front being interactive, alleys being quiet. To alleviate the patchwork dead zones. 4. I hope the convenience camp group doesn’t spend too much time hemming and hawing. It’s simple. It’s not allowed. You do it, you’re not allowed placement. 5. The fact that corporate types have majority stakes in the Org make people really suspicious and anything less than a firm repudiation of turnkey, convenience, for-profit or whatever-we-call-it camping will be a colossal failure.

    Love and dusty hugs!

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    • Geomom says:

      Good ideas! The emphasis on tons of activities is a two-edged sword. Since placed camps are overtaking the map so to speak, it means that the majority of burners are also stuck in camp producing events. Which means less people visiting other camps. I get a little nostalgic for the days when I could wake up and just wander around Black Rock City. On the other hand, I love our camp and everyone who comes by. Just hope we can keep the balance.

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  • skittles says:

    this is amazing! thanks for all of the work you’re doing to improve our city and keep us informed!

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  • Sara Glass says:

    Thank you for writing this. Curious: How did these groups get chosen? Is there room for more voices?

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