Placement’s Exploration and Engagement Research Squad (PEERS) is a team of volunteers from all over Black Rock City who help Placement understand how things are going in our theme camps and neighborhoods.
Black Rock City is a big place, containing more than 1200 placed theme camps and villages that play a big role in offering interactive experiences and in activating and preserving our culture.
Placement wants to celebrate them for the amazing things they do and the experiences they offer. We want to help them find a way through any challenges they may be having. And in the rare case where there are concerns or disputes, we want to help get them resolved while everyone is still on playa to sort it out.
The Placement Team that maps BRC is only a couple dozen people so getting around to 1200+ camps and villages is nearly impossible. That’s where PEERS comes in. PEERS Squaddies are Burners who volunteer their time visiting each placed camp in BRC. Many are camp leads themselves so they are literally your peers, and you can be one too!
What do PEERS Squaddies do?
Each shift is 4 hours long from Tuesday-Friday of the event. At each stop, we conduct a brief survey, take a few pictures of the camp’s frontage, and have a friendly chat about how things are going for the camp in general and in the neighborhood overall.
All of the data we collect gets added to the camp’s record with Placement, and we also make sure that anything that needs near term follow-up gets brought to Placement’s attention right away. The information collected helps the Placement Team visualize and recognize camps more than what is written in the Placed Camp Questionnaire.
If there’s a little camp in the outskirts that is blowing everyone away, a Placer can be sure to check it out and make sure they get recognized for it. If a camp is facing challenges, someone can help solve them. And if a camp is somehow becoming a problem for its neighbors, Placement can investigate and have any conversations needed while everyone involved is still on playa.
What kinds of questions does PEERS ask?
Our survey changes from year to year, but some examples from recent years include:
- How would you rate your location?
- How would you rate the overall interactivity of your block?
- What’s one camp in your neighborhood that has great interactivity?
In addition, we also collect more general feedback as part of our conversation. Nobody knows a neighborhood as well as the people who actually camp there, and we want to make sure we listen to what they have to say.
Who gets to see the data PEERS collects?
All data PEERS collects goes directly to Placement, where it is held in the same confidence as the rest of a camp’s placement data. Placement may occasionally publish insights from that data, such as:
- How many camps were satisfied with their placement this year?
- Who were the camps most celebrated by neighbors for having really exceptional interactivity?
- What camps did PEERS volunteers say they wanted to tell all their friends to go visit?
Does PEERS influence a camp’s standing?
Not directly. Since anyone can join to be a PEERS Squaddie, they are not in positions of authority and are mainly eager Burners who want to engage with camps. PEERS volunteers are there to listen, learn, and have a friendly conversation, not to judge. They do not know whether a camp is or isn’t in good standing, and they are not part of determining whether a camp maintains, loses, or recovers that status.
That said, PEERS observations can occasionally prompt a deeper look from Placement at what’s going on with a camp, which can in turn affect standing. For example, if PEERS goes to an address to find a camp and discovers it isn’t there, someone will check up on it (in most cases, this just means it got moved and PEERS hasn’t gotten the updated location yet).
Similarly, if a PEERS team comes back and reports that many of the camps they talked to indicated having serious issues with one specific camp, that’s going to raise concerns and may result in a Placer going out to sort out what’s really going on.
And of course, if a PEERS team comes back reporting that there’s a specific camp everyone seems to think is doing a great job, and it’s a camp Placement had previously asked to improve their offering, Placement will certainly take note of the feedback.
What is a PEERS volunteer shift like?
PEERS shifts tend to run about four hours, all of which happen during event week when.
The first 30 minutes is spent getting ready to go — assigning teams and routes, and covering any last minute update. PEERS volunteers typically go out in teams of 2 people, and visit 10-15 theme camps and villages.
The next three-ish hours are spent going out and visiting those camps. Teams find the camps, meet the leads, have a friendly conversation, and (with permission) take a few pictures of the camp’s frontage before moving on to the next camp.
The last 30 minutes is getting back together, downloading all of the data, and making sure the shift leads know about anything that needs a follow-up. During this time, PEERS volunteers are free to mix, getting to know each other and sharing the cool camps they’ve discovered.
PEERS does not currently require a minimum number of shifts to join the team, nor is there a maximum.
This is my first time in Black Rock City. Can I volunteer for PEERS?
Yes! It’s a great way to get to know the city, and to start to understand how theme camps and villages operate. We will generally try to pair you with a veteran to help you find your way and explain any lingo you might not be familiar with yet. There’s also a short required training that is offered both online and in person to be sure you know how to approach camps and work with the tools provided.
I’m a Theme Camp Organizer. Can I volunteer for PEERS?
Yes! Many of our volunteers actually run their own theme camps. It’s a great way to connect with fellow Theme Camp Organizers (and also a really useful excuse to get out of your own camp).
Does PEERS have its own support camp?
Not at the current time. If there is demand for it in future years, it’s something we can consider, but so far there has been no need.
How is this different from the Camp Survey Squad?
It’s the same team, just a different name. Quite a few people confused us with either the survey crew that lays out the city after the golden spike is set or Census, so we changed it.
How can I volunteer for PEERS?
As with other departments, you can volunteer for PEERS via the volunteer questionnaire on your Burner Profile. Select “Placement” as the department for which you would like to volunteer.
I have other questions about PEERS. How can I ask them?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer as soon as we can.