AFTERBURN REPORT 2011
Network growth in 2011
In 2011, the Regional Network welcomed 36 new Regional Contacts from around the world. Representatives from international Burner communities in Shanghai, Singapore, Johannesburg (Gauteng), Lithuania, Barcelona, Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Nova Scotia, and The Philippines came aboard as well as new Regional Contact team members in Ireland, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ottawa.
On the domestic front, the Regionals Committee installed new Regional Contacts in the existing regions of Chicago, Las Vegas, Arizona, Alabama, Denver, and The North Bay Area. Interest in the Regional Contact role is at an all-time high with inquiries coming in from many U.S. cities, as well as Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Costa Rica, Poland, Russia, Hungary and Israel. Burners in these areas are looking to build community through the arts, civic participation, and self-expression.
We've worked to provide more tools and encouragement to support groups everywhere in hosting meet-and-greets, newbie orientation nights, Burning Man Film Fests, Burners Without Borders civic actions, and other face-to-face events. We've also aimed to help them to develop online social networking presences so that Burners from the area can easily find out how to get involved.
The Regionals Committee at BMHQ is methodical and deliberate in the process of adding new regions and leaders to the Network. As it can take a while for Burning Man to bring on new official Regional Contacts, we encourage community leaders to get local initiatives off the ground while they wait to filter through the process. We also make a consistent effort to facilitate mentoring relationships between emerging community leaders and our seasoned Regional Contacts, Regional Contact alumni, and the Members of our Meta Regional Committee.
Meta Regional Committee
In 2010, we announced the creation of a new advisory leadership body within the Regional Network, the Meta-Regional Committee, officially launched at Burning Man 2010. This group sprang out of a shared desire from both the Burning Man organization and leaders in the global Burning Man community to better support the ongoing growth and transition of the Burning Man Project and the Regionals Network. With the huge growth of the Network, a new model of shared leadership must be evolved to foster development, more efficient and effective support, improved communication and mentorship.
The first group to serve in this capacity was hand-picked in 2010 and spent the year formulating how it would serve the needs of the Network through formal interaction and collaboration with Burning Man on behalf of Regional Contacts and local communities everywhere.
The founding Purpose of the Meta Committee is as follows:
- Serve as a source of support and development for the entire Burning Man Regional Network.
- Uphold and review individual issues/complaints regarding Regional Contacts and activities.
- Make recommendations for the Regional Contact Intake Process.
- Contribute to the mentorship of new Regional Contacts.
- Inspire leadership within the greater Burning Man community.
- Provide feedback to HQ on Regional Network needs and representation.
- Manage the voting process for Meta-Regional Committee seats.
To date, the Metas have worked on creating their decision-making and meeting processes, and formalized their mechanisms for working together (no easy task for a 13-person group where no two members live within 500 miles of one another!) They also assisted in selecting guest speakers for Regional Leadership Summit, and facilitated the World Café discussion sessions for that event.
The Metas are working with the Regionals Committee at Burning Man to actively engage and lead targeted Regional Event discussions. They have reviewed and commented on the existing Regional Contact role description, contracts and selection process. Currently, they're working on methods to speed up the RC selection process and to better help communicate broad understanding of the Regional Contact role within local communities.
They also provide phone, email and in-person mentorship support to several existing Regional Contacts, and consulted on conflict resolution issues. Individually, the Meta members attended Regional events and did LOTS of listening to Regionals, other community organizers and Burners.
Looking ahead to 2012, the Meta Committee aims to:
- Establish a more formal mentorship process for Regional Contacts.
- Continue to seek ways to better communicate with and involve Other Local Leaders (the "next layer" of local leadership beyond the official Regional Contacts).
- Provide feedback to The Burning Man Project on questions related to the evolution of the global Burning Man community and how the Project can support it.
- Find ways to efficiently assist the Regional Committee and the Burning Man Project.
- Discuss Regional Network nomenclature and making recommendations for updated language around global Burning Man community efforts.
- Provide input as the next Leadership Summit is developed.
2011 Circle of Regional EffigiesThe first ever Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) was created for the 2011 Burning Man event. The 600-foot ring around the Man consisted of 23 effigies created by Burning Man Regional groups, from the South Bay Area all the way to Ireland. These 20-foot tall burnable sculptures provided a visual illustration of the ways in which the Burner ethos has spread out into the larger world and how, each year, the various groups come back together to celebrate as one community in the Black Rock Desert.
All of the CORE projects burned simultaneously at 9:00 pm on Thursday of the event, and marked a significant Rite of Passage for the Regional Network and the celebration of what was a global collaboration amongst very diverse regional groups. Plans are taking shape for a CORE Project for 2012 and many groups are already working on their effigy designs.
Annual Regional Leadership Summit
In 2011, we welcomed over 140 Regional Contacts and invited Burning Man community leaders to San Francisco for the 5th Annual Regional Network Leadership Summit for a weekend of training, collaboration, and shared practice. The official schedule included workshops on Volunteerism, C.O.R.E. project development, public relations, social networking, transformative leadership, civic engagement, meeting facilitation, event production and more.
For the first time, we invited academics to host discussions about their research on Burning Man culture. Artists Marilee Ratcliffe and Dave Umlas of Community Art Makers in Austin, TX provided a multimedia keynote address, and leadership from Nowhere, the official Burning Man regional event for Europe, gave a presentation on bridging language barriers through community art and participation.On Friday of the Summit, we hosted our second annual tradeshow-style "Convectional Caucus" where over 40 groups of cultural collaborators from the Bay Area - non-profit groups, arts collectives as well as several Burning Man departments and offshoot organizations - set up tables and exchanged ideas and resources with our visiting Regional Contacts and community leaders. The Bay Area groups as well as our Summit attendees walked away from the Caucus with new insights, new relationships, and tools to help them succeed in their year-round leadership roles.
Cultural Outreach and Other Events
In 2011, we saw frequent collaboration between Burning Man regional groups and Burners Without Borders (BWB), Black Rock Solar (BRS), and the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), among other organizations.
Regional leaders spearheaded Burners Without Borders efforts around the world. In response to the tornado devastation in Alabama and Georgia, Burners from the area came together to remove rubble and rebuild destroyed homes, collect clothing, food, books, and other supplies, and provide a safety net for friends in need; BWB Chicago launched the Cultural First Responders Music Box Program at Burning Man 2011, providing a way to rebuild devastated communities through art and music; BWB Volunteers in Port Au Prince, Haiti and Pisco, Peru are working closely with local groups to reconstruct neighborhoods and communities. For more information on these projects and for tips on how to start your own civic project, visit www.burnerswithoutborders.org.
In November, Nevada Burners rallied behind Black Rock Solar's participation in "Nevada's Big Give", an online fundraising effort to install a solar array for a pet sanctuary at the Shade Tree, a homeless women and children's shelter in Las Vegas.
The Regional Network created a new partnership with the Black Rock Arts Foundation wherein Regional Contacts reached out to BRAF grantees in their cities to offer public relations support to artists wanting to get the word out about their projects. Regional Contacts in New Orleans, Spain, France, the UK, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, and other communities worked with artists and Burning Man's media team on press releases, compiling of local media lists, and fundraising efforts.At Burning Man, the Regional Network joined forces with BWB, BRAF, BRS and the Burning Man Project at "District Everywhere". Located on the Esplanade near Center Camp, District Everywhere is a place where participants can learn about these outreach groups and find ways to connect with Burners in their hometowns. Throughout the week, they hosted many events at District Everywhere, including the annual Regional Network Mixer.
2011 also saw hundreds of Burning Man-related and inspired events all around the Regional Network, from volunteer/civic projects, Newbie nights, arts workshop, and official weekend-long camping events. Hillbilly Burners' Reclamation event in Kentucky and a Decompression event in Johannesburg, South Africa were just two of the new events in 2011. As always, dozens of official Decompression events and Precompression gatherings were thrown all over the globe. Embodying the 10 Principles of Burning Man, these are Leave No Trace events and are designed to involve and benefit the entire community and welcome visitors to get a taste of Burning Man back home.
As always, Regional Contacts are encouraged to support the local connections that lead to interactions like events, artworks, classes, or other collaborations –they're not, despite popular perception, required to throw events for the local community, but rather to help facilitate the interactions that lead to community and collaboration. Burning Man is actively developing new ways to educate our community about what the Regional Contact's role is – and is not.
Film Fest in a Box
The Film Fest in a Box (FFIAB) program is a film festival created for Regional Contacts to bring local Burners together and share the experience of Burning Man on the big screen. Burning Man hand selects and pre-licenses the films that appear in the festival, so that local groups can use them as a pre-packaged, plug-and-play body of work – just add a theater!
Regional groups from Los Angeles to Shanghai held these Burning Man Film Festivals as part of the FFIAB program. Many groups have chosen to combine the film festival with other activities such as fire spinning, clothing drives, art shows, workshops, or clothing swaps. We are inspired to see Regional groups utilizing the FFIAB as a way to fundraise for their local community, to gather people together, and to showcase the work of Burning Man filmmakers that might otherwise never be seen in the theater.
There are now more than 175 Regional Contacts in the Burning Man Regional Network, serving communities that span 19 countries and five continents. We look forward to continuing to nurture year-round community and participation in 2012 by connecting Regional Contacts and community leaders with the resources, tools, and expertise they need as well as do our most important work - connecting Regional groups with one another. For more information on the Regional Network and to connect with your local Regional group, visit regionals.burningman.com.