The addition of several new members to the Volunteer Resource Team in 2008 was the most pivotal development the team has seen in the past few years. As the team expanded by several new staff members, it saw the injection of new ideas, energy and talent into the events we produce. These new members quickly assimilated themselves into the Team and contributed greatly to what was by all accounts a very successful year.
The VRT year-round Coordinator, who helps to arrange events, manage volunteers, and provide support to the team, also stepped into a new management role as On-Playa Manager. The team’s former Volunteer Coordinator officially stepped into the role of Project Manager for the team. Our loss of a Training Liaison was a gain for the Black Rock Arts Foundation, to whom they are now providing crucial support.
Spark Events were held in conjunction with and concurrent to other Burning Man happenings to allow for greater participation. Our first planned event of the year was held in March at a local Burner-owned establishment and allowed staff to ‘do-over’ their Valentine’s Day.
Whenever possible, the Volunteer Resource Team looks for opportunities for mutual support, and so attempts to plan events with either Burner-owned, or Burner-friendly businesses. Our last Spark before the Burn was again held just after “The Way It Is” staff pre-event orientation meeting, so that many of our out-of-town staffers were able to attend.
The Team also acted in a supporting role in the Regional Leadership Summit in February, lending our assistance and knowledge to help this important gathering. Furthermore, the Team co-hosted the annual April 20th party in conjunction with the Tech Team, and again produced the volunteer recruitment and April Open House at Burning Man HQ.
The BBQ is an annual event, traditionally held in Golden Gate Park, where Burners are encouraged to bring their “virgins, newbies and dust-free friends” and introduce them to Burning Man.
As in the previous year, we again teamed up with the Special Events Team to co-host the picnic, although VRT was responsible for production. 2008’s BBQ had the best attendance ever, with many departments participating. Rangers, DPW, Playa Info, BRAF, Burners Without Borders, Exodus, Cafe and the Department of Mutant Vehicles all had information tables at the picnic. These departments were there to answer questions, recruit new volunteers and represent their teams.
Participants made flags that were incorporated into the Black Rock Arts Foundation’s on-playa presence. Rangers held workshops on playa-planning. DPW demonstrated ‘line-sweeps’ during the event and we left this section of Golden Gate Park much cleaner and greener than when we arrived. The Team is already working to increase department participation at the BBQ in 2009.
Participation from theme camps, musicians, dancers, jugglers and bands added to the festivities. A dome-building workshop was even offered. The grills were filled with delicious food all day long and Burners happily displayed the principle of ‘communal effort’ as the potluck overflowed with people excitedly sharing their favorite dishes.
The VRT also produces the annual Burning Man Staff Holiday Party. This private event is held exclusively for the hard-working office, volunteers, and staff of the Burning Man Project for the current year, and allows the team to use our talents to hold a merry celebration.
2007’s introduction of a Santaland was back again in 2008, where participants could have their picture taken with Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. The recycled gift exchange, costume contest and cookie potluck are popular fixtures of this event. Performers and entertainers add to the cheerful atmosphere.
The V-Spot is the on-playa manifestation of the Volunteer Resource Team. The 2006-07 pre-event volunteer wrangler returned to Black Rock in 2008 to make sure early arrivals were at the event site to work (not to party). She was supported by the new On-Playa Manager. Our pre-event presence was made possible again by the hard work of DPW , as the shade structure we share with Playa Info is one of the first public projects completed within Black Rock City.
Staff and volunteers overwhelmingly approved of both our increased size and our new location at the Portal of Center Camp. In this location, the V-Spot was more visible and prominent than ever, and because of this (together with our ongoing efforts to make our services known), we filled the largest number of volunteer opportunities we have ever recorded.
In 2008, the VRT staff decided to schedule ‘interviews’ with each department’s Volunteer Coordinator so that we could get an idea of their volunteer needs before the event and draw up schedules. This streamlined the information gathering process and allowed the Team to better plan for volunteer staffing.
We attempted to offer participants the opportunity to fill out the online Volunteer Questionnaire at the event, but ran into technical difficulties. We have regrouped and are ready to make this new service function in 2009. Our newly-acquired computers are stored and ready to use next year.
Our dedicated on-playa team staffed shifts at the V-Spot desk (this team composition is slightly different than the year-round one). Our internally-lit V-Spot sign again rose above the Information Services shade structure beckoning all passers-by to “VOLUNTEER HERE”. Team members stayed busy facilitating volunteer placements, but never forgot to have fun. Our interaction and integration within the Playa Info/BMIR area was the best yet and staff from all three departments worked in close cooperation, offering top-notch community and information services to the entire Burning Man community.
Corey A. Christopher