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Labor Coordination

The recipe for DPW combines a team with diverse backgrounds and myriad personalities, time-sensitive projects, and a remote environment in extreme living conditions with long work days of strenuous labor. All you need to add to make it work are efficiency and organization. Adding the role of Volunteer/Labor Coordinator to the DPW staff provided just that addition to the DPW recipe. Effective use of project management tools, prior correspondence with the volunteers and crew, and better tracking/managing of daily job lists were all factors in building a successful DPW team for 2002.

Every year, DPW hosts work weekends to encourage first-timers to come up and work on Black Rock Station and the work ranch. This experience gives them an idea of what they'll be signing up for should they choose to volunteer and whether they can hack it. The Coordinator sent out notices of the weekends and kept a record of the people who came up and worked. This information helped in picking the crew and volunteers for the 2002 event, something new for DPW.

In 2002, DPW set a maximum limit for the number of workers it would accept for two-month jobs during August and September. Almost every person on the 2002 DPW team had notified the Coordinator of their schedule and skills beforehand. The Volunteer/Labor Coordinator worked with the project managers to coordinate project timelines with crew and volunteers' availability and skills. DPW peaked at close to 250 workers in 2001, while this year’s trimmed-down crew peaked at 150 workers. Even though DPW had fewer workers this year, the project managers were more relaxed and comfortable with their crew members’ skills resulting in better productivity for everybody, Projects were completed on time, and the teams worked like well-oiled machines. The clean-up crew even finished a couple of days ahead of schedule, but not for lack of MOOP on the playa.

In previous years, people could work for DPW simply by showing up unannounced, at any time. This practice made tracking people for work, food, and transportation a difficult task. Effectively getting the word out about changes was a tricky process. Not everybody has access to a computer, which added difficulty to the job of notifying a lot of people about the cutbacks within DPW. E-mails, word-of-mouth, and work practices this year definitely communicated the message that DPW was setting a new precedent. Next year will bring an even trimmer DPW team with work contracts for the members. This means that communication about working for DPW in 2003 will need to start in the spring.

Submitted by,
DPW Labor/Volunteer Coordinator
Burning Man


Click here to read the 2001 DPW operations report