How to Reinvent Your City, Burning Man Style


| 8/21/2012 2:21:09 PM


Tags: Burning Man, Participatory Budgeting, Cooperatives, Credit Unions, Car-Sharing, Shareable, Jessica Reeder.,

 Burning Man

This post originally appeared at Shareable.net

Every August for one week, the Burning Man festival takes place in a temporary city of its own creation, called Black Rock City after Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where it is located. This year, Black Rock City’s population will be 60,000 — bigger than Carson City, the state capital of Nevada.

Our real-world cities, meanwhile, are struggling to provide the services citizens need, limited by declining tax income, record debt, and increasingly complex social issues. Cities have no choice but find ways to do more with less. Many seek to harness the creative energies of citizens to fill the gaps, asking them to take a more active role in governance, service provision, and even in creating new services.

It’s easy to write off Burning Man as a hippie love fest in the desert. It has its own problems like any city, but that's selling it short, especially in one regard - its remarkable ability to foster participation. The event -- which for 26 years has expected participants to practice sharing, gifting, and radical self-reliance -- is an effective proving ground for experiments in community self-organization. In fact, participants build most of the city without any direct oversight from organizers.