AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
Wherever there is a Regional Contact, there is a friendly face to answer your Burning Man questions, tell you about something fun to do locally and to welcome you to the local community. It's a special thing to be able to travel to a new city and have an instant network of contacts! Burning Man participants truly are a worldwide group of people bound together by shared ideals and values and the Regional Network is a perfect manifestation of that connection.
While it is true that sometimes the connection manifests as a full-scale "regional burn event" (such as Transformus in North Carolina and Apogea in Colorado), more often than not, big events are not the focus of the Regional Network. It is equally interesting and inspiring, for example, that Florida participants meet regularly for simple sushi dinners, or that Tahoe's regional group enjoys camping trips and drum circles, or that Vegas Burners volunteer together for local charities. People connect around what they learn at Burning Man and it manifests in many different ways.
In 2006 the Regional Network welcomed 15 new Regional Contacts bringing the total to 101 in 78 locations (with a queue of individuals interested in becoming a Regional Contact volunteer close to 50). To meet this rapid growth in 2006, Burning Man improved Regional Network information management, processes, and resources.
Significant in 2006, the Burning Man Regional Network drew mutual inspiration from, and cross-pollinated with, groups such as Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders – also groups that emphasize bringing Burning Man principles to locations far afield, year-round. With the evolution of the Black Rock Arts Foundation (bringing Burning Man art to communities outside the Burning Man event), and the creation of Burners Without Borders (a new civic-minded Burning Man participant group formed in response to Hurricane Katrina), 2006 saw diverse opportunities and ways for far-flung Burning Man participants to be involved with each other and to strengthen local ties through civic projects and action.
Managing Regional Network information and processes was no small task in 2006. With the advent of 15 new members to the Regional Network (some, new Regional Contacts joining ranks; others, stepping up to replace a vacated role), and the exponential complexity of the evolving Regional Network, it was all we could do at Burning Man Headquarters to keep up with requests in 2006. In the latter part of 2006 we made changes to our staff and are dedicating more people and resources to support the Regional Network. The Regional Administrator has stepped up to a full-time role, which includes living remotely and traveling extensively.
For each situation we carefully examine the need for a new regional, the priority in queue, conduct interviews (each interview requires a one-on-one conversation about the role, the Ten Principles, the Burning Man ethos and experience), and set up the new Regional Contact in the network. Each time an interview is completed, another newly-interested regional pops up in its place. In order to address limitations and growing pains as the Regional Network evolves, new processes were put in place in 2006 to qualify and organize regionals. New candidates, from locations near existing Regional Contact areas, were encouraged to build relationships with existing groups, while another location with a large population of Burning Man participants may benefit from co-Regional Contact help. In all cases, building upon connections and leveraging one another's existing talents (rather than duplicating efforts, or creating new regional groups where they already exist) is encouraged as are mentor-mentee relationships. No matter what the case, each region has unique inquiries and needs. It is a time-consuming process with many, small details that new information management and additional resources helped immensely.
If the Burning Man Regional Network is a rallying cry of participants calling for involvement in Burning Man beyond the celebration aspect of the event with new, exciting connections and projects emerging across the global map, the Burning Man Regional Summit is just one answer to the cry. In 2007 over 40 Regional Contacts will converge to connect, present, share information, and participate in discussions and workshops at the Burning Man Regional Network Summit, February 16-19, 2007 located at Burning Man Headquarters, San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
2006 was an incredibly successful year for the Regional Network, not without the growing pains organic to the process by which the Regional Network was born and continues to grow. We look forward to 2007 and are incredibly excited about the new possibilities opening up for Burning Man participants 365 days a year, around the world!