History and Culture of the Outside Services (OSS) Program
The mission of the OSS program is “to support the communal effort, culture, and long term sustainability of Black Rock City by regulating access to the event for qualifying service providers supporting art projects, theme camps, and participants.”
The OSS program was started in 2012 to help theme camps and art projects receive access to and share resources, and be able to build in a timely fashion. Without a program and alternate site access in place, service providers had difficulty making deliveries and providing on-site services (such as installing, maintaining, and servicing power grids). Event personnel were also being pulled away from their intended roles to manage deliveries or troubleshoot service provider arrivals and direct them to their clients. By 2019, more than 200 camps and art projects used the OSS program. They ranged from very large camps to very small camps, and included theme camps, mutant vehicle camps, and artist support camps.
Cultural Direction Setting (CDS) Process and OSS
While many camps have used the Outside Services (OSS) program as intended, for some, it became the backbone of their production, with camps being fully serviced by vendors. Over the years, we saw a huge growth in RV and trailer vending, and a corresponding increase in environmental compliance issues. We also saw vendors expand their offerings from RVs, trailers and generators to convenience items like e-bikes, Segways and mutant vehicle rentals.
From 2017-2020, Burning Man Project facilitated the Cultural Direction Setting initiative, which spearheaded the development of Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City. A core tenet of the vision statement is that “[t]heme camps allocate their collective focus, time, and resources primarily toward their public contributions rather than personal comfort and convenience. Conveniences are used in service of the camp’s contribution, which adds to the vibrancy of the city.”
Making Burning Man more “convenient” was never the intent of the OSS program, and Burning Man Project has been taking steps to ensure the program is in alignment with the 10 Principles that are the cornerstone of our community and culture.
To do this, we have created a clear and transparent method to evaluate what comes in through the program, which we’ll be referring to as the Allowable Categories of Equipment and Services (ACES) framework.
No more delivered housing
As explained above, after taking a close look at OSS program usage data and the findings from our Cultural Direction Setting community engagement project, it was clear that we needed to re-align the OSS program to its intended purpose and Burning Man’s Principles. In an effort to course correct, for 2022 and beyond, there will be no delivered housing through the OSS program. We are encouraging everyone who used this service to re-evaluate their housing arrangements this year. If you can’t get the equipment or services that you would like through the OSS program, consider rethinking your camp operations, doing more with less, and getting back to basics. Bigger is not necessarily better, and we encourage participants to “celebrate the small.”