In a typical year, many theme camps go quiet and hibernate in November. But this is no typical year as we slowly thaw from a two-year freeze brought on by the global pandemic. This post about Black Rock City’s 2022 Placement Process is coming earlier in the event-planning cycle because it’s going to take more time and effort to get our band back together again.
The Placement team faces the annual challenge of balancing old with new, big with small, and weaving together the technicolor quilt that is Black Rock City. We’ve spent time over the past two years rethinking and fine-tuning how to improve what we do, and we’ll begin rolling out some changes in 2022 that will impact the shape of things to come. This piece summarizes what you can expect from Placement this year. Our new-and-improved process aims to:
- Make placement decisions earlier with more transparency
- Emphasize Decommodification within theme camps and villages
- Offer a higher touch by the Placement team to better understand each of BRC’s 1,200+ theme camps
- Support resource sharing among camps to improve our collective impact on the environment
- Adapt to the increasing demand for placement and Directed Group Sales (DGS) for theme camps and villages
How Did We Get Here?
When we all last built Black Rock City in 2019, placement had reached a saturation point, with the highest number of theme camps seeking placement in the event’s history. That year, approximately 90% of BRC’s city blocks were reserved for placed camps, leaving only the last two blocks free for open camping. The demand for placement stressed our ability to maintain space for Burners who prefer finding a spot on their own. The freedom, serendipity and interdependence that are facilitated by open camping have real value that we need to maintain.
In 2019 we were also deep in the Cultural Direction Setting work that brought together theme camp leaders, staff across Black Rock City, and the Placement team to set a 10-year Cultural Vision for Residential BRC, address pinch-points in the placement process, and revise expectations of theme camps. The plan was to shift our process and update our guidelines to better sustain the culture and growing global community we all love.
What’s the Plan for DGS in 2022?
First, let’s all take a collective deep breath because Placement will be honoring our DGS commitments to theme camps and villages from 2020, as we had promised in 2021. We also guaranteed placement for all theme camps and villages in good standing, and this commitment extends to 2022 (or 2023 if you take this year off).
The Placement team wants this return home to be easeful, and not have lack of placement be an obstacle for your homecoming. We stated in the 2021 Placement Newsletter #2, “The pandemic has rattled all of our lives in many ways; if we can make it to Burn this year, it will be enough of a feat.” We know the same applies at this very moment as groups, communities, and camps assess whether 2022 is a real possibility.
We also recognize that 2022 might not be the year for your theme camp or village to return, and if so, we highly encourage you to consider deferring this year. If your camp chooses to defer in 2022, Placement will guarantee your DGS and placement for 2023. We hope extending this offer to 2023 encourages your camp to feel comfortable postponing their return for a year if that is the right decision for your group.
We also anticipate the demand for placement and DGS to continue growing, as interest in Burning Man and BRC has not waned. We will use the next 12 months to rethink and redesign a DGS process that can fairly and equitably respond to that growth.
What Can Camps Expect in 2022?
A few new pieces to the placement process will be piloted this year in the spirit of making Placement more dynamic and transparent. We’ve also been looking beyond 2022 to future iterations of Black Rock City and designing new elements that will be beneficial down the line. Here are important changes you can expect in 2022:
- Introducing a Statement of Intent
- Moving Up the Placement Timeline
- Providing Neighbor Contacts
- Closing the Loop: Post-Playa Report
- Inter-Camp Resource Sharing
- A Process for New Camps
Introducing a Statement of Intent (SOI): We are initiating a new form called the “Statement of Intent” that will launch through Burner Profiles. All returning theme camps and villages in good standing who wish to access DGS and be placed in BRC 2022 must complete this form by January 13, 2022 for Placement to confirm 2022 DGS allocations by February. If you’re an existing camp, look out for more instructions by email from Placement. Future years will follow a similar timeframe for SOI submissions to help plan for the coming year.
Moving Up the Placement Timeline: We’ve heard repeatedly that Placement announcements need to happen earlier so that camps can make use of this information sooner. This year, we are aiming to let you know placement decisions by early June. In order to do so, we expect all returning camps to complete the Placed Camp Questionnaire by Thursday, March 31, 2022 a month sooner than in past years. New camps will still be allowed to apply for placement by the previous deadline of the last Thursday in April (the 28th).
Providing Neighbor Contacts: Aside from earlier notification about placement decisions, our most requested process improvement has been for camps to know who their neighbors are in advance of arriving on playa. We are happy to say we will be accommodating this request starting this year! Camps can now opt into sharing their names and contacts with their neighbors. This info will be added to the “You’ve Been Placed” notification that previously only included camp dimensions and approximate addresses. We hope this will help build stronger neighborhoods and better coordination among neighbors.
Closing the Loop with a “Post-Playa Report”: In an effort to learn more about how the event went for all of you, after the 2022 event, we will ask each placed camp to complete a Post-Playa Report. What went well? What didn’t? How did everyone cope with that dust storm? Did anyone else find that hidden treasure of a camp? How many camps are in good standing? What’s the most common interactivity found on the playa? We’ll use this for internal assessments and will also share reports about the storied tableau of Black Rock City’s camps and villages so that we can all learn from our collective playa experiences.
Inter-Camp Resource Sharing: In the spring of 2022, we’ll facilitate a process for camps to connect with each other and form resource-sharing hubs to support Burning Man Project’s goal to become carbon negative by 2030. Rather than rely on Placement to determine your neighbors, this gives camps a chance to request placement together. More information will come about this in the new year via the Placement Newsletter. If you’re interested in helping to design this process, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with [HUBS] in the subject line.
A Process for New Camps to be Placed: New camps sprout up all the time and help keep Black Rock City fresh and alive. This year we are creating a better path for new camps that wish to apply to be placed. Remember, new camps are not required to be placed and many set up in open camping by finding a spot once they enter the gates of BRC.
For new camps seeking placement, the Placed Camp Questionnaire will be due the last Thursday in April (a month later than our March deadline for returning camps). It’s timed after the main sale for tickets so that these camps can have a better headcount and plan accordingly.
Next, we’re creating a small pool of DGS tickets to offer to new theme camps once they have been selected for placement. A limited quantity will be available, and new camps are still advised to seek tickets through other sales. This pool will give us a chance to supplement what new camps receive in those sales. More information will be shared in the spring about how this process will work, so sign up for the Placement Newsletter to keep track if you aren’t already subscribed.
That’s a lot! What else can we expect from Placement?
While we’re working hard to pull all these new pieces together, we remain committed to improving other elements of placement and other camping in Black Rock City. That includes further advancing Cultural Direction Setting, updating BRC’s Outside Services (OSS) policies (stay tuned to the Burning Man Journal for more on OSS), refining our approach to eliminate convenience/turnkey/plug-and-play camps, improving the open camping experience, and finding more ways to support Burning Man’s goals around Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E.) and Sustainability. Subscribe to the Burning Man Journal and the Jackrabbit Speaks to be kept in the loop.
Our sister team, the Camp Support team, also remains active with their projects to support the theme camp community, including monthly Campfire Talks, the Camp Advisory and Mentorship Program, the annual Camp Symposium, and a help desk that can be reached at email@example.com.
None of this happens without the help of volunteers, so if you’re interested in pitching in with the Placement team, please fill out this volunteer interest form. If you love BRC’s theme camps, supporting them, and building communities — you might be a great fit!
We’re excited to see these new pieces of the Placement process come together. As always, if you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of your camp in the subject line.
Cover image of Placement banner over aerial photo of Black Rock City, 2015 (Photo by Scott London)