In November of 2008, the director of Community Services – and architect of many of the CS departments – announced their intention to resign from the Burning Man Project. After seventeen years of innovative service, there was first a commitment to seeing us through a reorganization process. This became the catalyst for a self-selected Senior Staff task force to convene, and – with the support of the Project LLC Staff – consider among other major topics, department reorganization, new authority matrixes, and succession.

As a result, BMIR Information Radio was moved to the Communications department, an obvious fit. Another change was that our beefed-up Human Resources department took over staff training, with the counsel of a cross-departmental Staff and Organizational Development (SOD) subcommittee, which includes Community Services. In total, eight subcommittees evolved from taskforce work on authority matrixes – ‘to have the right minds in the room’, and CS management is participating with the City Planning, Communications, HR, and Technology subcommittees. Volunteerism sees new potential to collaborate with HR, and Roundtable discussions were hosted for Volunteer Coordinators to share experience, knowledge and resources.

More than ever the Burning Man Project is looking “beyond Black Rock”, and so CS activities are spreading out beyond our city boundaries and the annual event. Playa Info and Earth Guardians are becoming more involved with Regional events and reaching out to collaborate with organizations that share our ethos.

In April we hosted the last Open House at 1900 Third St, and asked the attendees to participate in a community brainstorming forum on how we will adapt and survive these tough economic times. We moved a skeleton crew to our new temporary office where we are challenged by the lack of space both to house our full year round staff (many began working remotely), and for holding large staff meetings and community events

In May, the task force presented some departmental re-organization at the All- Staff Meeting. The resigning CS Director reversed her decision by posting this statement: “The efforts that have been made thus far have given me a great sense of rejuvenation. As our last All-Staff Meeting showed, changes are beginning. It is slow, but very healthy and productive. I am excited by the changes and want to be a part of what will make us thrive as we move forward.”

The June Barbeque-A-Newbie Picnic has become a supplemental volunteer recruitment event with many departments providing volunteer stations. There is a proposal on deck to consolidate the event and our future Open Houses into a single May picnic, as April may be too soon for new volunteers to have much interest. Of course in April of 2010, we expect to be opening house in our new offices!

A smaller city plan and population seemed to take a load off playa departments, and many reported a mellower, manageable year. However, more camps filing for registered placement, combined with less space allotted than in 2008, really challenged the Placement team.

At the end of 2009, the Volunteer Resource Team hosted our annual staff and volunteer holiday party, moving it up to November. This reduced the stress on staff to produce multiple appreciation events post-Burn and to allow remote staffers that were in town for debriefs to attend.

It seems the evolution art theme for 2009 was prescient for the Project itself. From board-level resignations and reconsiderations, to Project-wide reorganizations, a disruptive office move, and economic challenges, this was one of the most tumultuous years we have endured. And yet we have endured, and really thrived to produce one of our most successful events.

So, on to the future, to Black Rock and beyond!