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.
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.