The Global Leadership Conference (GLC) was Burning Man’s flagship educational event, bringing together community leaders from across the Network for four playful, celebratory days of skill-sharing, knowledge exchange, and relationship building to promote leadership and community development around the world. Our intention for the GLC was to bring community leaders together from around the globe to engage on the topics most relevant to them, to share their impressive knowledge, and to connect with one another in a more intimate environment than they may find at their regional events or on the playa.
The Burning Man organization convened Regional Contacts, Regional event producers, Community Leaders, and Burning Man Project staff for this event in the Bay Area for 11 years from 2007-2017. For 2018 and 2019, we took a pause to regroup, re-examine the structure and scope of the convening, and work on a plan forward that we feel will serve the needs of a growing and thriving global network.
The GLC originated in 2007, in the former Burning Man headquarters at San Francisco’s 16th & 3rd Streets. Initially named the Regional Leadership Summit, the conference hosted approximately 80 people who participated from around the world. Workshops were mainly led by Burning Man staff, while attendees and staffers alike forged connections. As that first Summit unfolded, participants witnessed the positive knowledge sharing and deepening of relationships that occurred, and organizers knew they’d continue to convene annually. The event size has increased with each subsequent year with attendance broadening beyond Regional Contacts to include event producers, community organizers, and other movers and shakers who have influenced their regions with their ideas, input, and actions.
Recognizing the desire for more co-learning and networking opportunities, Burning Man took the show on the road and convened the first gathering of European Regional Contacts and community leaders in Berlin, Germany four years ago. 2019 marked the Sixth Annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit, which took place last April in Aarhus, Denmark. This year also marks the sixth year that leaders in Southeastern United States have convened for the Southeastern Leadership Roundtable, which took place in Atlanta, the fifth year of the Multi-Regional Summit near Lake Tahoe, the third year of the Australia/New Zealand Leadership Summit in Melbourne, and the second year of the Northwest Leadership Conference in Seattle.
Volunteer Burning Man Regional Contacts and community leaders have become experts in their own spheres of influence while their roles have grown more sophisticated in response to their local communities’ growth. To meet these emerging leadership needs, GLC workshops have evolved to include not only skill-based knowledge but also higher level learning, including creating business entities, developing art grant processes, and relevant symposia from inspired organizations such as Burners Without Borders. Offering tremendous benefit to Regional Contacts and affiliated global leaders, the workshops now provide more peer-to-peer sharing opportunities. Here, groups present their projects and event experiences, and highlight their successes and challenges so that others may build on those ideas and grow to the next level in their own communities.