Black Rock City Cultural Vision: Working Groups Gather To Hash Out Next Steps

On November 15–17, 40 Burners from around the United States (plus Australia — heyyyy, Catnip) descended on Burning Man Project HQ in San Francisco to work on the next steps in implementing the Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City.

Published in July, this Vision was the first phase of the Cultural Direction Setting project that began in October 2018. The Vision outlines where we want the culture of Residential Black Rock City to be in the next five to 10 years and was built on widespread input from the community. It addresses our current challenges, sets a course for the future, and suggests changes to placement and other approaches over time.

The Phase 1 Vision Group — 19 theme camp leaders, Burning Man Project staffers, and camp placers — helmed the first phase of this adventure. Now we’ve moved into Phase 2, the implementation phase, which involves over 70 individuals across 10 working groups that focus on different sections of the Vision. (You can see who they are here.)

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Most of these groups have been meeting since the Burn, and each one has been discussing big, juicy topics like theme camp criteria, tickets for camps, convenience camps and the 10 Principles, and strengthening our neighborhoods.

The November work weekend was the first time seven of the 10 groups came together to compare notes, and discuss and debate their recommendations and next steps. The goal was to emerge from the weekend with a clear list of consensus areas and items still to be resolved.

My group, the “Transparent Communication to Residents” group, split up and sat in on various sessions to listen, understand and synthesize where the conversations were heading. Our takeaways:

  • There were a lot of honest, candid conversations between Burning Man Project staff and theme camp organizers — maybe more than ever before. We recognized the challenge of implementing the Cultural Vision of Black Rock City and determining the right balance of communicating clear guidelines, providing supportive education, and sharing honest feedback for accountability.
  • Residents want and need more transparency from Burning Man Project, particularly when it comes to communication of Placement decisions.
  • Placement criteria should be more transparent about what it means for a theme camp to be in good standing — including follow-up on what really happened on playa and closing the loop when back in the Default world (à la MOOP Map).
  • Allotment of Directed Group Sale (DGS) tickets and how it relates to past/future participation is under review. As scarcity of tickets and high demand for physical space has become a reality, one way to steer Black Rock City culture could be to target these resources toward camps that meet Placement expectations and who have a positive impact on the BRC culture and community.
  • Acculturation is more important than ever — and the entire spectrum of citizenship matters. Camps are a critical way for acculturating Black Rock City residents, and there are ripple effects when it doesn’t happen.
  • Cultivating neighborliness is really important! How camps get to know your neighbors in advance of reaching Black Rock City is being explored. This would help with everything from creating positive energy in a neighborhood, planning joint/coordinated events, to environmental sustainability if camps can share resources.
  • Mentorship is another area that really matters. There’s lots of discussion around expanding opportunities for camps to learn from one another through a Camp Advisory Program, networking, and other efforts of the Camp Support Team.
  • Timelines for placement are under review. You may see some changes in 2020, and even more in 2021 and 2022.

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For the groups themselves, a key takeaway was the power of coming together in one space to share thoughts, listen to perspectives and collaborate on how we make this vision real.

“Our work was about having the tough conversations about what it takes to create a dynamic container in which each Burner can live their dreams,” said Marlon Williams, a member of Group 4 (Placement Process) and the Chakralicious and People of Color Camp, and the Assistant Director for Public Sector Innovation at Living Cities

“Meeting in person allowed us to truly connect and share stories, ideas and dreams for Black Rock City,” he said.

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Shadow (Phase 2 Placement Team Identity Group, Phase 1 Visioning Group and Burning since ‘92!) cherished watching human nature at work, learning to see new perspectives, and being able to see and understand the person speaking them.

“The seemingly casual conversations that would pop up after lunch or dinner or on a walk back from a break out session were very valuable,” she said. “That’s when ideas would come out or come into understanding. We had the time to flush things out. Hugs were helpful, too!”

Top photo: Digging in the Zocalo meeting area at Burning Man Project HQ. Marlon Williams and Black Beauty share updates from the Placement Process group. (Photo by David Nelson-Gal)

About the author: Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello is Burning Man Project's Digital Community Manager. She went to Burning Man for the first time in 2006 (seven months pregnant, no less) and immediately wanted to leave. (She didn't know dust storms were a thing.) But 24 hours after that initial shock, she fell in love with it, and it's been a part of her life in big and small ways ever since. On playa, you'll usually find her camping in Kidsville, riding Bahamut the dragon, or hugging a speaker because she loves music so much.

20 Comments on “Black Rock City Cultural Vision: Working Groups Gather To Hash Out Next Steps

  • Piney pinemom says:

    To all who participated, thank you., first!
    I’m happy to see this happening. We in “404 village not found” formerly Terminal City Village, circa 2007…have been internally working a set of standards to keep our village as open and welcoming to all.
    When burners walk past our street, it’s our hopes that the excitement they see actually causes them to change direction.
    Our favorite is to get to know other like minded but unique camps to sister with and some to actually join.
    Last year, we advertised our sister “coffee” camp in our coffee camp, so if you found yourself on the other side of Playa you could get a equally wonderful cup of coffee!
    Our village is multiple camps doing different things, together!
    We have fluctuated to as big as 9 camps and as small as 5 camps…and everywhere in between. Most of these camps are 20-38 people. And we love virgins!

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    • Kevin Cox says:

      Dear Piney pinemom. We stumbled upon your street last year and were so impressed. We had previously been to the 4077 M*A*S*H camp and loved watching a few episodes. I have been trying to reach you to talk about the possibility of joining with you guys. Would you be so kind as to contact me? My email is

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      • Ex neighbor of yours. says:

        I just have to say camping next to you guys is like Chinese water torture. Playing back to back all day loud enough for your neighbor to have to hear theme song every 30 mins, twice at the opening and closing of the episodes is maddening.

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  • King Bee says:

    Fantastic work! This gives me a lot of hope and excitement for the continuing evolution of our fair city and the spread of Burner culture worldwide!

    Well done!

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  • Jeanette says:

    Support services for camps. Composting in more sites so it’s easier to do.

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  • SinglePly says:

    BRC needs more party camps that gift booze and noise and marathon intoxication 24/7. I can help acculturate and mentor new party camps with my Five Part Participation Plan: 1- Set-Up Camp. 2 – Get Wasted. 3 – Make Lots of Noise. 4 – Stay Wasted. 5 – Go Home.

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  • anon says:

    For Open Camping, this was in the description in the prior post: “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.”

    Who was picked and what was the process for picking those people?

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  • Rafe Garcia says:

    I am interested in attending Burning Man 2020.
    This would be my first Burning Man event.
    My plan is to go in my RV and so I am wondering how to accommodate my rig, truck and trailer so that it is on the periphery of La Playa, not blocking view or being obstrusive.
    In addition, the direction of the prevailing wind in relation to the Burning Man event.
    Ideally, parking one’s RV with the nose facing east and the tail facing west will give the side of the RV with the awning the southern exposure. The advantage here is the awning will shade the rig keeping the inside of the rig cooler during the day.
    A chat forum for RV’s would be helpful as these forums specific to RV’ers share a wealth of first hand knowledge.
    Hope to see you all in ’20!

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    • Wall-E says:

      Never use your awning at burning Man less you want to buy a new one when you get home

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      • Allyn (Pyre) says:

        re: camping at Burning Man in an RV: the challenge for camping in the RV on the Playa is that it can limit interaction with other burners, and external noise from your A/C or generator has to be managed.

        The generator topic is not limited to RVs; I wonder if there is a Burner RV group or camp that has tackled the noise factor and other topics head-on. I’d be surprised if there isn’t. On the plus side, such a setup can make it possible for people with respiratory diseases like emphysema to participate in the burn without risking a life-threatening situation.

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  • splat says:

    Losing Fangs and Growing Pangs or How I Learned to Bring Multitudes Forward to Share a Common Vision.

    Wow. So many things to consider, review, role play and decide on. Big Love to you all for doing it.
    Can we reach for that one overriding belief/cause/lifestyle/interaction/purpose/vision
    that all can hold dear, that is evidenced the moment burners hit the playa in the signage, in the way we engage with one another, in the fruits of our labors, in the ways we play. A theme that is awe-inspiring enough to last ten days and beyond. If 70,000 people could get together with a focus on that one thing all can hold onto, what would it be?

    I know shit’s way more complicated than that.
    But I wanted to share it.

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  • Buckwheat says:

    Spreading the culture –
    . Feel good about working for free to profit a corporation.
    . Get spiritual but not religious points to share with your friends.
    . Pretend you’re changing the world by sharing things that white people like to do. Call it, ‘culture’.
    . Put LEDs on it and call it ‘art’.
    . Take a picture of her every time she picks up an hammer.
    . Get laid by social sciences majors who have heard about Burning Man and really want to go, but can’t afford it.

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  • Dave Aiazzi says:

    Burning Man should die with Larry Harvey

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  • Candyman/Kevin Cox says:

    Thanks so much to all of you for your hard work addressing this important, and really existential, issue! Unless the event is permitted to grow, we are rapidly nearing the point where we can’t accommodate all of the deserving theme camps and still have room for the necessary influx of new people with new ideas and creativity. I look forward to the solutions you all come up with.

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  • Michele Antonelli says:

    I am interested in attending Burning Man 2020. This would be my first burn. I live in the North Bay Area and would be happy to volunteer in any way possible. As a business owner for 27 years I have many business skills and worked in the fair and events arena.

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  • I would like to participate in this process. How can I get involved? I have been going to BRC since 2012, have helped to create a theme camp, help bring a camp to a village, helped build two mutant vehicles (once with assigned camping and multiple times without) and am building a third mutant vehicle for 2020.

    I am African-American and would love to see more POC at BRC.

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  • First, thank you for adding transcripts. It makes it a lot easier for me, at least, to view your cool thoughts. Second, I was also interested in your answer to question 1. I remember a few burns ago the excellent deep playa art piece that showed the curvature of the earth!

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