A series from the BRC Operations team about what our desert city can become and how we are preparing for the future. Read all the posts here.
The event is canceled.
So… what’s the BRC Operations team doing?
The answer: Thinking about the future
To more fully answer this question, we are launching this five-part series. Our goal is to share information and provide a window into what we are doing and what we plan to do to tune up Black Rock City (BRC) for the future. Each post following this introduction will thoroughly examine a current area of work and dig deep into related topics.
BRC is made by and for the community; its form and potential impact are shaped and created by all of us. We each have a voice as we consider how best to use this time to address matters imperative not only to the future of BRC, but also to how we responsibly co-exist on the planet. We hope this blog series stimulates conversation and inspires action as we collectively consider our next steps and destination.
This post is Part I of the series.
Purpose: (1) To provide an overview of what the BRC Operations Team (BRC Ops) is working on, how we got here, and what we are planning. (2) To introduce current areas of work that will be explored in further detail in future posts.
Table of Contents:
Past: How we got here — the Burning Man Bus
Burning Man is like a bus on a never ending route. Over the years, our “Burning Man Bus” has grown and it has never stopped moving. Each season, new luggage gets added to its roof and the load gets heavier. Our route to and from Black Rock City includes no time for pit stops; there are too many things to do in the short yearly cycle of BRC Operations to make big changes. As a result, processes get overloaded and cemented in place, and our ever-expanding bus becomes increasingly sluggish.
But this year, BANG!, our bus was forced to a screeching halt.
For the first time in over 30 years, BRC is not being built in the Black Rock Desert. This rare pause in our routine has provided us with an amazing opportunity to look at our bus, re-examine our work and operations, and unpack some luggage.
What have we found? An old event, with old systems, made for and by the old world; it’s time for us to make some changes.
Our bus needs some detailing, an oil check, and maybe its tires rotated. It was great when it was designed, and fit perfectly at the time, but the state of the world in 2020, combined with some older systems, are giving us a beautiful opportunity to rethink and reshape.
What does this mean?
We are asking ourselves and our community, when BRC comes back what can it be? There are many opinions about this and the answer can only be found in the collective engagement of our community.
We agree that BRC should showcase our best selves. Our city has always been a platform for progessive thinking, research, and development. Now is the time for us to expand and deepen our conversations, and do the work that we truly believe in for BRC and the world.
Present: Three themes & many areas of work
Over the last few months, we have been compiling comments from a wide range of staff and volunteers, listening to participants, reviewing feedback from the 2019 event, speaking with professionals in our field, and staying educated on world developments. From this, we have identified potential operational improvements and built a narrative around 3 major themes:
We have been able to incorporate, ask questions about, and focus on an array of work areas within our BRC Operations including:
- Sustainability: In partnership with BMP’s newly-formed Sustainability Team, we are examining every part of our BRC Operation and considering how we can make it more sustainable. Implementing alternative energy grids, strengthening our waste stream management, reducing our fuel-based infrastructure—the list of potential improvements and ideas is extensive and we are hard at work mapping out and analyzing all of them.
- Diversity & Radical Inclusion: We are committed to deepening our understanding of institutional and systemic racism and are listening, reflecting, and acting. We have implemented unconscious bias and anti-racism training for staff, facilitating discussions and weekly conversations around racial justice for all layers of our community, and building a roadmap for more ways our teams can actively practice anti-racism and work towards better representation of People of Color in our city. A myriad of conversations are taking place as we embrace this moment as an opportunity to step up as an organization, a city, and a culture.
- Resources: Quantity, Allocation, and Tracking: It takes a lot of things and stuff to provide for and take care of the staff and volunteers who work behind the scenes of BRC. We want to make sure that the distribution and care of these assets is fair and equitable, that the most effective technology for the organization, allocation, and tracking of assets is being used, and that the right data is being collected to lessen and prevent the wasting of resources.
- Logistics: Moving, placing, storing, sharing, renting—the number of moving parts needed to support the large amount of staff and participant “stuff” is massive. How can we simplify BRC operations and processes? What reasonable boundaries can we establish? Do we need all this stuff? How can we work together to better manage and coordinate all the things?
- Cultural Direction Setting: How people camp, how participants engage with volunteers, how our BRC Ops processes are carried out—these are some of the questions that have been asked and answered by our Cultural Direction Setting Team over the past two years as they have engaged with a diverse range of members from the community and organizational leadership. Let’s continue the evolution of this work, make it actionable, and implement it into our operations and policies. Think placement feedback process, ticket allocations, and camp and individual accountability.
- Volunteerism: Did you know it takes about 7,000 people to keep BRC moving on the ground? We have dozens of people working year-round both in our offices and around the world to coordinate and work with all the teams and amazing humans that make our city run. How are we supporting these human ecosystems? Are we doing it in a way that is fair to the group? How are we honoring volunteerism, the bedrock of our culture?
- Other areas we are diving into include: the public bus program, Burner Express, bike rentals, on playa water supply, on playa fueling, etc.
Future: How are we planning for it?
We are mapping out the numerous opportunities for the next iteration of BRC, analyzing their feasibilities, and determining:
- What can we do
- What MUST we do
- In what order will we do it
- How we will do it
- How long will it take to do it
- Who will do the doing of it?
Piecing together all of these thoughts in order to get us to the next Black Rock City, while factoring in the potential impacts of COVID-19, is complicated and will require the engagement of our entire staff and global community. This work is important and this opportunity once in a lifetime (we hope!).
As we stand on the side of the road, looking at our Burning Man Bus and discussing the many parts of our past, present, and future, we are excited.
The possibilities of this moment are great. This is our time to make positive, real, and enduring change to the event we love and for a world that will never be the same.
We hope this overview has been useful and look forward to continuing our conversation as we further explore the above mentioned topics in future posts.
Next up: Post II — BRC Ops and Sustainability
Top image: Photo by Scott London, design by Tanner Boeger