This was, by far, one of the most challenging years for Community Services Department volunteers. The ticket shortage revealed in January prompted the Founders to cancel the last scheduled Open Sale of 10,000 tickets, so they could instead become Direct Distributed Tickets (DDTs) to our community contributors. Our awesome ticket office then scrambled to create a new process, and then it was Community Service and other departments volunteers, working in the trenches, who truly saved the day with all their efforts.

Few people realize that hundreds of Burning Man volunteers do not receive gift or discounted tickets: they volunteer with no expectations of receiving compensation. We first called upon our volunteer coordinators, who labored many hours to thoroughly survey our core volunteer staff, to evaluate unmet ticket needs, in consideration of DDTs for these volunteers.

Next, the Placement team volunteers were called to action months early, to select camps for DDTs by applying the established Placement criteria of 1) history, 2) demonstrating community benefit, and 3) embracing the Ten Principles (with an emphasis on the Leave No Trace principle). There were only enough DDTs to accommodate core theme camp crews.

We are most grateful to the Placement volunteers and their auxiliary administrative support, who put their lives on hold and took on this Herculean task: to vet hundreds of camps months ahead of our traditional schedule and process, and make theme camp DDT fulfillment happen.

An ad-hoc taskforce was created to address and recommend DDTs for the special cases, the groups that traditionally ‘fly under the radar’: established unregistering and outer-rim camps, staff and alumni camps, new and promising camps, and groups that fell under the more general categories of ‘community and miscellaneous’.

Turnkey camping was a hot button topic from fall through our event, and we invited stakeholders to dialog, documented in a video that was shared with the community via blog posts. While there are varying gradients of community contributions made by turnkey participants, we made the determination to halt the spread of adventure type travel packages by outfits that are merely repackaging Burning Man, profiting without regard to the value of radical self-reliance.

The impact of increases in air and bus charters was felt this year. More effort is needed to acculturate and better set expectations with those who avail themselves of these services. We will continue to monitor and manage the impact of turnkey camping and charter arrivals via our outside services and delivery licensing processes.

For the first time we held two Theme Camp Forums to discuss, among other topics, the challenges of turnkey camping, and to assist camps in completing our placement questionnaire and submission of their camp plans. Forum one was leveraged to announce the DDT potential for registering camps. Other forum topics included: best practices when arriving at our Gate, NV Health Division permits, expanding Leaving No Trace to address surrounding highways and local communities concerns, deliveries and outside services, increasing security for camp guests, sound, heavy equipment, and safe fuel handling and storage.

The Volunteer Resource Team held a Participation Faire in April, a resurrection of our previous Open House events, to acculturate new Burners and to connect them with volunteer coordinators, and volunteer roles. An “Ask a Burner” panel followed a newbie orientation presentation by a seasoned staff member.

Management of the early arrival pass process was transferred from volunteer staff to paid Burning Man staff technologists, working in conjunction with a vendor this year. We regret that the transition was flawed, new features were under-tested, and the results were sub-par, further impacting the beleaguered Placement volunteers and our theme camp community at the eleventh hour. The Technology Department took ownership of the resolution, and will be presenting a post-mortem late this year. Placement volunteers are contributing documentation and feedback to improve planning and execution for next year.

Succession planning seems to be on everyone’s mind this year. The Volunteer Squadron saw succession planning guidelines that was later again presented at the Leadership Forum. We’ve seen some healthy turnover in CS team management, and more appears to be on the way.