Category: Blog

The Burning Man Regional Leadership Summit

One of the first really difficult decisions we faced as a Board was whether to subsidize attending the Burning Man Regional Leadership Summit in San Francisco in March, 2012. I knew that the community could interpret going to San Francisco to hang out (read: sit in meetings all day) with other Burners as a reward. Up to that point we hadn’t overseen any events or given out any art grants, so I wasn’t sure that we could justify our usefulness as an organization (constitutions and by-laws aren’t really end goals).

I ultimately decided to support subsidies because a big focus of the Summit was setting up regional organizations, which seemed like particularly useful timing for us. I hoped that the attendees would learn useful lessons to avoid mistakes and set up the organization efficiently before oversight of Carnivale and Otherworld dominated our agenda.

It was also valuable because it gave our Board members other than Ashes an opportunity to network with Black Rock City LLC and other regional organizations. If Ashes steps down as the Regional Contact or leaves the Board, it’s important that we have redundant connections.

Ashes and Shenanigans posted their notes from the Summit.

I chose not to go before the subsidy decision was made. Up to that point, my only interaction with Black Rock City LLC was not getting a ticket to Burning Man. Much of what I read online was that Burning Man Project couldn’t take over too soon. I was ambivalent about learning leadership from an organization that seemed to be failing at it. I also didn’t have any friends in San Francisco, so it really would have been a business trip for me.

Since then, I’ve learned that there are amazing leaders in the regional network who succeed regardless of the parent organization, but that’s a topic for another post.

Shenanigans’ Post-Summit Report:

 In April 2012, the Kindle Arts Society sponsored four of us to attend the Burning Man regional summit in  San Francisco.  It was a good event, with a lot learned, both on a personal level and on an events best practices level. I think it was definitely value for the money; certainly the breakouts and pods, but I would have sacrificed a lot of the large meeting talking and targeted messaging time for longer pods, as they were the most useful. It was also a good chance to meet and discuss with other regionals, their best practices are interesting, with many different ways to do things.

My personal pods and breakouts:

Friday Pod 1: Pod C Meeting skills for artists. How to run an effective meeting for those folks who are more interested in getting art done than developing people management skills.

Friday Pod 2: Pod A Special Events 101: Event production Workshop.
An  introduction to $teven Ra$pa’s event production work book. Good tool, something the community can probably use.

Friday Pod 3: Pod A Word Press Lab: Build Your own Regional Website. Introduction to Word Press.

White Paper Presentation: Alchemy Board-Atlanta’s presentation on Art Fundraising and putting art Decisions into the hands of the community. Awesome presentation, something I’d like to try here.

Friday Pod 4: Pod B Cross -regional Art Collaboration.
Tons of ideas and things that people want to talk about, not long enough to get at any meat.

Regional Mixer: Some good contacts made, conversations about a Western Canada MetaBurn.

Saturday Talks and keynote addresses: Some good info, lots of targeted messaging.

Saturday Breakout Session: Group 3: Civ 201: Public Art Events.  
Awesome look at Figment, the free art event that’s been growing across the eastern states. Doable.

White paper presentation: Utah Community leaders, Burning beyond the Zion Curtain. Presenting on the difficulty of building a burner community in the Mormon state.

Acculturation discussion. Key messaging about turning new burners into good  burners who respect and embrace the culture.

Sunday World Cafe.                             

Sunday Breakout Session one: Group 3: Events 201: Advanced Event Production Lab
More talking event production with  $teven Ra$pa.

Sunday Breakout Session Two: Group 5: Effective Social Networking
excellent talk with Will Chase. How to, and why to, and what not to.

Closing plus Delta

Ashes’ Report on the 2012 Leadership Summit

I attended my third Annual Regional Leadership Summit (hosted by the Burning Man Project) in April 2012. I attended as Victoria’s Regional Contact in the previous two years; however this was the first I have attended as a Director for KindleArts (in addition to my role as Regional Contact). There were minimal differences to how the change in responsibilities effected my experience, but I did find myself spending more attention on legal issues – in particular, how to legalize fire performance.

Overall it was a good experience and it taught me some important information, despite the fact that there are relatively few courses that I have not yet attended at the conference.

Presentations & Activities Attended:

  1. Regionals 101
  2. Kick-Off, Orientation to BMHQ, Brief Introductions
  3. Special Events 101
  4. Fundraising 101
  5. Alchemy Board-Atlanta
  6. Regionals Site WordPress Training
  7. CORE Information Session
  8. Keynote Address
  9. Meta Regionals Committee Update
  10. Second CORE Session (Circle of Regional Effigies)
  11. European Regional Network Update
  12. Participate! Video Project (Xina Ocasio, Film Director)
  13. PR 102: Community Relations with a Smile
  14. White Paper Presentation: Utah Community Leaders
  15. Acculturation Discussion
  16. World Café: Group topic discussion
  17. Business 202: Investing in the 10 Principles
  18. Events 103: Legalizing Fire Performance
  19. Wrap Up and Plus/Delta Exercise


  1. Special Events 101
    $teven Ra$pa is Burning Man events coordinator (he runs SF Decomp, among other things) and a personal inspiration to me. I wanna be $teven Ra$pa when I grow up! His event production handbook is an amazing resource. The KindleArts board will be making a simplified version for use by our event managers.
  2. Fundraising 101
    A basic introduction to fundraising, particularly social-fundraising. Nothing amazingly ground breaking here, but a good introduction and clarification for people who aren’t familiar. As I work in social media, I was familiar with most of the ideas and approaches, but it was good to have those reaffirmed in case Victoria needs to use these approaches in the future.
  3. Alchemy Board-Atlanta
    Alchemy is the official Burning Man Regional Event of Atlanta. They have a unique art granting procedure: they host an event where artists and makers bring plans and models of their projects. Event attendees receive “chips” which represent cash, which they give to the artists of the particular project they want to support. In this way, the community selects the art they want to support, rather than an art grants committee. Myself and the other conference attendees were excited about the democratization of art granting and are interested in bringing this approach to Victoria.
  4. European Regional Network Update
    When I became Victoria’s Regional Contact, there were only a couple of Regional Contacts in Europe. This presentation showed  the amazing growth of the network in Europe in the past several year!
  5. PR 102: Community Relations with a Smile
    Tom LaPorte is another of my heroes in the Regional Network. He expanded on topics he had shared with us at previous summits, largely around effective ways of dealing with local government and authorities so that everyone benefits.
  6. White Paper Presentation: Utah Community Leaders
    The Utah community leaders described the difficulties of being Burners in a Mormon state, leading into the formation of their not-for profit. They had a professional consultant help them through the process and it is highly structured. It was interesting to see, but for now Victoria sees benefit in having a less structured and more ad hoc growth as we maintain flexibility and minimize organizational bloat.
  7. Acculturation Discussion
    An interesting discussion on how to teach Burning Man culture and the 10 principles to new participants to maintain our culture and help our movement grow.
  8. Events 103: Legalizing Fire Performance
    A case study of how the Milwaukee community developed a process to legalize fire performance in their community. Many of these methods are being investigated by KindleArts’ new Fire Safety Liaison.

As I have soaked up the majority of information that is presented at the conference, I probably will not attend in 2013 unless I am attending as a speaker.

One of the biggest reasons to go to this conference is to refresh, re-energize, and reconnect with that “Burning Man” feeling. Working as the regional contact and a board member can be emotionally exhausting. The conference is a great time to connect with people who truly understand how much effort this type of volunteering can take, and an amazing opportunity to be re-inspired by their efforts!

Who the Hell is That??

I’ve heard it said that the other members of the Board are “the usual suspects”, but a lot of people had no idea who I was when I won the election.

I first attended Otherworld in 2011 not really knowing what I was getting into. When I signed up for tickets I said something like “I guess I could volunteer for the Department of Public Works”. Ashes sent me an email guilting me into doing more so me and my three virgin friends ran Coffee Camp.

Giving out coffee was an amazing way to meet people (I introduced myself as “Coffee Camp” until Carnivale 2012) and really sold me on the culture. I quickly decided to go to Burn in the Forest and resolved to get into the community. But getting to Black Rock City in 6 weeks seemed like too much of a stretch, so I bided my time.

Over the winter I got invited to a few parties and made a few friends. When I heard that KindleArts was getting formed, I decided that being on the Board would be a great way to meet more people. I also felt that it suited my skills better than building art or leading an event.

I didn’t expect there to be much competition in the election – who else goes to meetings for fun?!? I was actually worried that I could end up being the Chairperson with no idea what I was doing. In the end, it turns out I had schmoozed with just the right people who showed up for the election. I made a speech about how I actually liked doing administrative stuff to win second-round voting over Kym Spencer, who ended up instead spending her time building the effigy for Otherworld and the Psychophilia regional effigy for Burning Man. I know she’ll readily admit that we both got lucky with that election, because those endeavors were a better match for her interests and talents.

By now I’ve had a chance to meet a lot more of our members than when I got elected. If we haven’t met yet, please send me a message or come say hi at one of our events – I’d love to shake your hand and kiss your baby.