2019 Collaborative Arts Grant – Traversing Through Dust

SDCAP is excited to share with you one of several projects headed to Burning Man that has been awarded a 2019 Collaborative Arts Grant! Look for updates to this post as fundraising and the build get underway.

Traversing Through Dust
Grant Awarded: $15,000
Lead Designer: Ramiro Martinez Jr.

Project Summary
Life can sometimes feel as though we are aimlessly traversing through the dust while we try to get to our destinations. The path is not always clear or visible, or for that matter, the path may not even exist. A bridge is defined as a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle. A bridge is also defined as a time, place or means of connection or transition. Traversing Through Dust aims to remind participants that the means for transition/bridges are ours to create. In the end the decisions and self-reflections we make, pave the path to where we want to be and whom we choose to become.

Physical Description
Out of the dust citizens of Black Rock City will see a metal bridge made up of 5 towers with 6 decks suspended from the towers. These decks will be made of wood and held up with lifting cable. Decks will start at ground level. They will rise to a height of 20 feet. The bridge will take up 6 sides of an octagon. Participants will be able to interact with lights which will be attached to the towers. The lights will produce shadows and trail effects that will cause participants to question their reality. Participants are encouraged to write on the structure about their experience at designated locations. Participants will be able to climb the structure.

MATH Collective
The MATH Collective is comprised of a talented group of individuals ranging from the fields of architecture, engineering, mathematics and electronics. Our Design team includes San Diego Community Members: Mark Anderson, Max Elliott, Diane Hoffoss, David Timms, Brenda de la Cruz, Jazmin Arredondo and Ramiro Martinez. Collective project experience includes the following projects, Wonderlust Arcade, Critter Art Car, Unfolding Humanity, Cabina Exuro, Caroushell, Quemaduras del Sol, Starfish, Isis Pyramid and The Journey. Our mission is to bring new experiences to the community using Architecture, Engineering and Electronics that evoke the minds of Participants.

 

Incoming 2019 Board Members

We recently wrapped our annual New Board Member Selection Cycle. Here’s an overview, by the numbers:

  • 6 open positions
  • Promoted  to our mailing list of 8k+ subscribers and posted on 5+ Facebook pages and groups
  • 4 applications received
  • 1 resurrected Community Advisory Vote in response to community complaints because did away with the Advisory Vote in 2018 due to low participation (back then ~25 people voted)
  • 2 ways to vote: online and in-person at a Town Hall
  • 1 Town Hall to conduct the interviews:
    • 3 out of 4 applicants attended
    • Approx. 12 community members attended
    • 6 people voted in person
  • 13 people registered and voted online
  • 19 total people voted
  • 6 current Board members reached consensus matching the Advisory Voting results
  • 3 shiny new Board members to be sworn in on 3/13/19:
    • Dan Reeves (who has been serving as an Interim Director since August 2018
    • Bob Syfrett
    • Ken Klausen

Thanks to everyone who participated and a huge thank you to our 3 new Directors for their willingness to serve!

The Best Laid Plans

If you’ve been keeping track, gentle reader, you know we had a plan. A lovely, well-paced plan to transition the YOUtopia production structure over the course of 2 years. We planned to keep things mostly the same for 2019, and use it as a transition year to prepare for the new structure in 2020. In order to keep things mostly the same, we needed to maintain the Co-Producer positions. But no one applied for the job. For some historical context, 2018 was the first year we had an open application process for the Co-Producer role and there were 3 applicants for 2 positions. In 2017 and earlier, outgoing Co-Producers more or less selected their successors. For a variety of reasons, that method was no longer sustainable, and we switched to open applications for 2018 and 2019.

When we realized we had no applicants for the Co-Producer roles, we decided to hold an open meeting to talk about the path forward. We invited everyone who’d previously reached out to us to express interest in YOUtopia 2019 leadership as well as prior Hub & Department Leads. The open meeting was held at CoLab on 1/17/19 and was comprised of the SDCAP BOD plus 10 people who’ve been in various YOUtopia  leadership roles. In the course of that meeting, we decided to forge ahead with the team model for 2019, a full year ahead of schedule.

We are jumping off the cliff and sewing the parachute on the way down.

Which bring us to the shiny new Production Leads Team Role Description and Application. We outlined the overall idea of the Production LeadsTeam in a prior post and the Role Description should offer some additional insight. We expect interested candidates to have a lot of questions about how it’s all going to work, and the best thing we can tell you is: start thinking about how you want to make it work. It’s a collaborative endeavor and it’s largely going to be up to the Production Leads Team to design itself: its culture, its policies & procedures, and its methods for accountability. Yes, the BOD is going to provide oversight (it’s literally our job), but the BOD is not the Production Team.

We’re excited about the implementation of a team model and look forward to seeing your applications. If you have any questions prior to applying, please email bod@sdcap.org.

 

Retreat Recap & Re-Envisioning YOUtopia Production

Buckle up – this is going to be a long one! It has to be in order to cover the 7hr BOD Retreat held Sat, Dec 1. 2018. As we mentioned in a previous post, Board Retreats are standard practice for non-profits, they’re about the big picture, SDCAP has retreats 2-3 times per year, and no voting takes place (which primarily means we don’t make decisions about how money gets spent). For this retreat, we had a few big things we wanted to discuss:

  • Change to the YOUtopia Production Model
  • Streamlining the BOD’s YOUtopia processes for oversight obligations including budget, wrap-up, incident resolution, etc.
  • Improving BOD communications & collaboration with the community, YOUtopia Production Team, and CoLab Team.

We did manage to cover all of the above (woo!), and came to consensus about a great deal of it. As it goes in consensus building models, we don’t all agree 100% on everything, but everyone’s voice gets heard and we work hard to make decisions each person finds acceptable.

First up, here’s the scoop on why we looked at changing the YOUtopia Production Model, our methods, the decision, and implications for 2019 & 2020.

YOUtopia Production Model – to Change or Not to Change?

Setting the Stage for Organizational Change

For some context, YOUtopia is one of the few Regional Burns that uses a 2-person, Co-Producer model; most Regionals using Planning Teams of approx. 6-9 people. Sometimes these teams are the BOD of the non-profit or LLC, sometimes they overlap, and sometimes they are discretely different. We don’t necessarily think a team is better or worse than a Co-Producer model, but it sure is different, and we thought it was worthwhile to explore.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

We’ve gotten feedback (more on that below) that the Co-Producer model is working well and shouldn’t be altered. We think that’s a valid perspective and by all rights, the San Diego Burning Man community has gotten pretty good at putting on a Regional Burn. At the same time, from the perspective of some of the BOD and Production Team, for a number of years now there have been persistent challenges in YOUtopia production which seem to be getting worse not better. Many of these challenges exist within the Production Team, as well as between the BOD and Production Team. Challenges we’ve observed and/or fielded ongoing complaints about for years include:

  • Miscommunication/lack of communication
  • Lack of shared vision
  • Lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities – particularly who gets a say in what decisions
  • Reinventing the wheel – often doing the same things which have failed in the past or been improved upon
  • Lack of adherence to budget/budget overruns
  • Fighting, back-biting, blaming, gossip
  • Nepotism and favoritism in assignment of leadership roles and event perks
  • Too many people demanding a say in how things are done – constant revisiting of decisions based on input from people unhappy with this or that decision
  • Excessive volume of work not tied to outcome (e.g. numerous in-person meetings at which little is accomplished or business conducted is not meaningful to attendees, excessive emails / poorly handled “reply all” emails, many hundreds of hours of conversations to help team members process emotions or to mediate interpersonal disputes.)
  • Lack of camaraderie

When looking at these issues in conjunction with our organizational structure, one interpretation is that much of what ails YOUtopia is a result of too many cooks in the kitchen and too much turnover among this giant group of cooks. The event is the equivalent of approximately a half-million dollar business, yet the management team currently includes 2 producers (Co-CEOs) 12 Hub Co-Leads (Executive Team), 50 Department Co-Leads (Management Team), all overseen by a 7-9 person Board of Directors. There are billion dollar organizations with much smaller management teams which – not surprisingly – run way more smoothly!  

The BOD went into the retreat thinking about substantially shrinking, revisioning, and flattening the organization. The new vision on the table:

  • Production Leadership Team of 5-9 members who would:
    • Work with each other and the BOD through the early-middle (December through April/May) phase of the production cycle
    • Collaboratively establish the event vision, priorities, ticketing structure and budget, as well as event rules and clear accountabilities for department leads and key volunteers
    • Establish its own internal accountabilities (who is handling what areas of production) but would be co-accountable for the event
    • Establish its own decision making process (e.g. majority vote)
    • Be responsible for adherence to the event budget in consultation with the BOD
  • Department Leads who would:
    • Join the team during the mid-production cycle once the Production Leadership Team had hammered out all of the above
    • Be responsible for execution of vision and priorities as established by the Production Leadership Team
    • Recruit and manage their volunteers within clearly established lines of responsibility

Due Diligence

We’ve been talking about this for a while – many months, if not well over a year. Some of the feedback we received (we promise, more on that to follow) was from folks concerned that we were considering this change as a reaction to specific problems in 2018 Production. Not so. It’s tough to carve out time and space for extensive research and methodical planning when YOUtopia Production takes up the entire calendar year (we’re still wrapping the current year while we beginning planning the following year) and when we also have CoLab, year-round grantmaking, and various other projects and endeavors. So big picture things like this come up for conversation along the way, we chat about them at retreats, and then eventually we get around to tackling them.

We’ve been talking about how to improve YOUtopia Production for a while and we finally carved out the time and space to do a deeper dive. Was our motivation increased due to problems during the 2018 Production cycle? Probably. Would we have addressed this possible change regardless? Yes. Given the time necessary for realizing any responsible vision for change, we suspected 2019 would be a deep inquiry year, with any major changes arriving for 2020 after input from a transitional team.

Prior to the BOD retreat, we did the following preparation:

Researching Other Models

We’ve reviewed models other Regionals Use, including organizational charts and reports, and had conversations with folks inside and outside YOUtopia. We also drew on our own internal bench-strength, as our BOD members have experience/education/training in management, process improvement, and organizational development.

Production Survey

Prior to the BOD retreat, we sent out a short survey to the 2018 Production Team as well as some past Producers/Leads. It went to approx 70 people via email and was posted to several Facebook groups. Did it comprehensively include everyone who’s ever been a Producer or worked on the Lead’s Team? Unfortunately, no. Do we still think it gives us a reasonable representation of people with YOUtopia Production experience? More or less.

There were a total of 19 survey respondents, including current and past Producers, Hub Leads, and Department Leads, a good proportion of whom have been involved with the event since before it was YOUtopia and before the 501(c)(3) existed. This 27% response rate is better than we usually see with YOUtopia surveys.

Survey respondents represented YOUtopia Production as follows:

In addition to gathering some information about each respondent, we asked 3 questions about the Production Model. The first 2 were multiple choice and the 3rd was open-ended.

For questions 1 & 2, there were 3 multiple-choice options as well as the ability to write in “Other.” For analysis purposes, “Other,” responses were recoded into Positive or Negative Sentiment, as they all fell in one camp or the other (i.e. none of the write-ins were neutral).

Question 1: What do you think of the Co-Producer model?

Question 2: What do you think of replacing the Co-Producers with a small leadership team of 5-9 people? It would be *kinda* like the current Hub Leads system, but with each person having more direct accountability, responsibility, and autonomy.

Question 3: What other suggestions do you have for improving YOUtopia Production?

As you can imagine, we received a wide range of responses to this question. Again, we recoded responses that clustered around certain themes and found the following:

  • 32% of respondents were in favor of more autonomy, decision-making power, and accountability for Hub Leads.
  • 26% of respondents said what’s problematic about YOUtopia Production is ineffective/problematic/toxic leadership, not the model itself.
  • 21% of respondents said some variation on, “in 20XX when I did ____, everything was great. Your mistake was changing what I put in place.”
  • 10% of respondents attributed some problems in Production to the fact that under the current design, people are intended to stay in their roles for 2+ years for training/planning/succession purposes, but in practice it’s not working out that way.
  • 10% of respondents said some variation on, “the BOD is what’s wrong with YOUtopia.”
  • Finally, 63% of respondents made a substantive comment or suggestion about changes that could be made to the Production Model (many of them mutually exclusive) or the way the work gets done. With respect to the way work gets done, people want things like:
    • More training/development/mentorship
    • Fewer non-productive meetings
    • Use of apps over emails
    • Clearer roles and responsibilities

(Percentages total over 100% because some people’s responses contained multiple suggestions.)

In summary:

  • The most common response to either model was neutral/ambivalent
  • The more polarizing positions were all over the map
  • The only thing that was really clear is that people have lots of different ideas about how to make YOUtopia better

While we were hoping to gain a little more clarity from the Production Survey, we’re not terribly surprised we didn’t see a strong trend emerge. There’s a lot that works really well with YOUtopia Production, and with respect to things that aren’t working well, there are numerous viable ways to problem-solve.

The Decision for Change

In the end, we decided it’s time for change. The BOD is committed to YOUtopia’s continuing evolution, and while our processes and systems become more complex and professional year after year, our management structure has not kept pace. We’ve leveled up our budget, insurance, contracts, safety protocol, and myriad other operational areas over the past 6+ years, and it’s time to do the same for our Production Model.  

We know change is a process and it takes time to be effective. While the BOD is establishing the big picture change of shifting from a Co-Producer Model to a Production Leadership Team Model, it’s largely going to be up to the Production Leadership Team to decide how to bring it to fruition. We expect it’s going to take over a year to do it well. For that reason –

This change will go into effect for YOUtopia 2020. YOUtopia 2019 will be a transition year. We’ll still use the 2-person Co-Producer model for 2019, with an eye on preparing for bigger change in 2020.

Implications for 2019

We expect 2019 Production will look much like it always has, with 2 Co-Producers leading the event. We’ll open applications for those roles in the next couple weeks.

In selecting the 2019 Co-Producers, we will be looking for candidates who are both able to work within the current model and excited to shepherd in the new. The 2019 Co-Producers will be instrumental in bringing together a group of Hub Leads who will in turn help craft the path forward and, ideally, be ready to step up into the Production Leadership Team roles in 2020.

To that end, there are a few substantive changes we’re looking at for 2019:

  1. Eliminating the “Co” for the Hub Leads. We want the Hub Leads to all be individuals who can collaborate directly with each other, the Co-Producers, and the BOD. They should be able to set and execute strategy for their respective hubs and work with each other to do it for the event as a whole. We don’t know yet exactly what that’s going to look like and we won’t know until the Co-Producers and then the Hub Leads themselves are all in place.
  2. Department Leads brought on board a bit later in the Production Cycle. Again, we don’t yet know the specifics, but we don’t believe YOUtopia requires a team of ~70 people to be in place in Q1 of 2019. Some Department Leads can come on board in Q2 and some in Q3, as determined by the Co-Producers and Hub Leads.
  3. Co-producers are essentially working themselves out of a job. We highly encourage the 2019 Co-Producers to push authority down to Hub Leads with the goal to make themselves unneeded in 2020.

How to Get Involved

We’ve gotten feedback from folks who want to be involved early in the planning process but don’t seem to know how. YOUtopia involvement has historically been driven by the Co-Producers, not the BOD, and it still will be. At the same time, we want to make sure we’re keeping open as many channels as possible, so people who have a vested interest in having a seat at the table do indeed have that seat (while we’re building the table).

Please email BOD@SDCAP.org now if you’re interested in being part of the ongoing conversation about YOUtopia production in 2019 and 2020. We especially want to hear from you if you:

  • Are interested in being Co-Producer or Hub Lead in 2019 (Co-Producer applications will be live soon, too)
  • Want to nominate someone to be Co-Producer or Hub Lead in 2019
  • Have experience working within a similar Team Model at another Regional Burn
  • Have experience working within the YOUtopia model and have process improvement input (that you haven’t already submitted elsewhere)

Retreat Recap: All the Other Things

YOUtopia Budget

Changes to Ticketing for Art Grant Recipients and Volunteers

We didn’t actually talk about this much at the retreat, but wanted to mention (because we don’t know if this is in writing anywhere else) we will absolutely be revisiting the ticketing system for Art Grant Recipients and Volunteers. As it is every year, ticket pricing structure will be determined as part of the Budget process.

Budget Process

The YOUtopia Budget – development, negotiation, approval, and management – is handled by the Co-Producers in collaboration with the BOD. We’re hoping this year the Hub Leads will be part of the collaborative decision-making process for developing the budget early in the year. We believe this is the best way to get broad representation of viewpoints/interests. The budgeting process improves year over year, and we’re confident it will be even smoother in 2019, thanks to some standardization and streamlining being spearheaded by our Treasurer. (This is happening for the SDCAP and CoLab budgets, too – exciting!)

Due to our Treasurer’s efforts, we now have easy-to-use budget templates that reflect what we actually do and that are compatible with our accounting software. We also finally have solid actuals for the last two years; it’s been a lengthy process to clean up our books, as there were no uniform systems in place until 2018 and each budgeting cycle involved a fair amount of guesswork. Now that we have two year’s worth of reconciled, uniform budgets and actuals, we have a pretty good handle on our hard/fixed costs (i.e. land, heavy equipment, etc), the % increases we can reasonably expect year over year for those hard/fixed costs, and our soft cost categories where there is infinitely more wiggle room.

All of this will allow us to give the Co-Producers a template that’s much more usable, includes realistic projections to use as a starting point, and allows them easily hone in on the line items most in need of attention. It also will ideally support them in being creative. We would love to see innovative cost-cutting measures and we would also consider increased expenses for goods/services that mitigate risk, as many of our high-expense line items are also our most high-liability items (and take up the most volunteer time). Basically, we’re willing to spend more on expenses likely to improve the safety and efficiency of the event and operations, especially if it reduces the labor demands on our volunteers.

YOUtopia Wrap-Up Process

We’re continuing to work on our timeline for post-YOUtopia wrap-up. Every year the BOD spends the couple months after YOUtopia wrapping administrative and oversight tasks. We’re working to document it all now to make our lives easier in the future. We heart Gantt charts.

We also talked about exploring ticketing vendors other than EventBrite. We’ve been happy with EventBrite overall, but with EventBrite our waiver is part of our ticket and the whole thing needs to be physically printed, signed, collected at gate, then scanned/filed away after the event. We have a backlog of many years worth of waivers to be scanned, and the BOD is currently chipping away at them during “scanning parties.” We are going to look at other options to see if there is a different solution that will carry the same legal weight.

Code of Conduct / Incident Resolution

Most managing entities within the burnerverse have a Code of Conduct (CoC) for their Regional Burns as well as their year-round activities. As of this writing, YOUtopia has a Code of Conduct for volunteers, but we don’t have anything for participants at the event, for CoLab, or for SDCAP events in general. This is bad practice because when people in our community engage in problematic behavior, we have no standard against which to hold them and no process for investigation or response. When especially egregious incidents occur and rise to the level of a safety/liability risk, the BOD gets brought in and responds in a reactive manner – also bad practice. We need a standard and a process.

Luckily, because almost every other region has a CoC, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We’ve gathered up a bunch of them from other areas (Fire Pony – Playa del Fuego, AZ Burners – Saguaro Man, NC – Transformus, Boston – Firefly), and are cobbling one together out of the gold that already exists. We’re hoping to have it up for public consumption within the next couple months.

In the meantime, the BOD is still working with the Producers and independently to resolve incidents that took place at YOUtopia 2018. As a general practice, outcomes are kept confidential for the privacy of those involved (and sometimes legally for the sake of HIPAA compliance). If you reported an incident to the BOD or Producers at/after YOUtopia 2018, we will be in touch soon to close the loop. Feel free to follow up with us if you have any ongoing questions and please understand that we will not be sharing any specific outcomes or personnel decisions.

Board Stuff

Most of what we talked about with respect to the BOD itself focused on 1) upcoming new member selection and 2) how to improve communications & collaboration with the community, YOUtopia Production Team, and CoLab Team.

BOD Candidate Recruitment, Process, etc.

Applications for the BOD are now open! If you haven’t already done so, read this post so you know what we’re looking for and what you’re getting yourself into. Then read the Job Description and apply!

We spent time talking about our recruitment efforts and how we’re trying to attract people from diverse segments of the community, administrative tasks that are part of the process of bringing on new members, and how we’re going to impart institutional knowledge when we’ll have so many new peeps.

One thing we’re considering is in addition to filling all 6 of the open positions, keeping on one or both of our outgoing Directors for an additional 1 year term. This is something the BOD has done at least twice in the past, for the express purpose of training new members so they could fill the roles being vacated. Due to the current BOD composition, we are not exactly sure how we’re going to stay afloat if we don’t have time to train someone for the Secretary role (including risk mitigation/insurance/contracts) and for year-round Art Grants Administration. We concurrently discussed transitioning outgoing Directors into external advisory roles, and that’s something we want to look at for future, but it doesn’t solve our current problem.

Communications

We now have a BOD member dedicated to email and social media management, and they’ll be focusing on getting out regular posts and updates across various platforms. We’re also going to explore with interested community members (a couple folks have stepped forward) how we can work together to push our content so it winds up in front of as many people as possible. As we keep saying, the total population of burners in the San Diego region is well into the thousands, but we can tell from analytics that only dozens – or if we’re really lucky, hundreds – of people see the content we generate.

And as you may have noticed over and over again in the above, we’re presently all about moving toward standardized processes. That applies to SDCAP, YOUtopia, and CoLab. Because a move toward standardization in itself involves lots of changes – big and small – we’re expecting (and experiencing) some growing pains. We understand it’s especially difficult for people to do things differently when they’ve been doing them their way for many years. Our hope is that by focusing on improved communications that address “the why” behind what’s happening, the changes will be a little bit more palatable.

Finally, for internal communications, we’re looking at ways to improve our own processes. In the Production Survey, one of the suggestions we received for YOUtopia was to use software like Loomio for decision making. The BOD is considering piloting it for ourselves, once we can get the luddites among us to commit. In a perfect world, the BOD will use it, love it, evangelize it, and then everyone else will want it, too. We also heard a rumor that other production teams have their own Slack channels. Just sayin’.

Quarterly Town Halls

Getting together in person is good. We’re going to aim for quarterly Town Hall Meetings at CoLab. The next one will be for the BOD Candidate Interviews/Advisory Elections, held on Sun, 1/13/19 from 11am – 2pm.

If you have topics/themes you want to cover in Q2 or beyond, send ‘em our way! Or let us know you want to host the Town Hall and we’ll support you in doing that (pro-tip: you don’t need the BOD to put on a Town Hall, but we’ll attend if you host it and help you however we can).

Final Thoughts

We warned you this was gonna be a long post! And you persevered and made it to the end!

We don’t usually report out after retreats or report anything at such length, but given the recent community requests for increased transparency, we thought it was important to do so. We realize you might disagree with decisions we’re making. We didn’t share all this information to convince you our way is right, but rather to pull back the curtain and provide more context and rationale for our decisions. And also to illuminate ways in which you can be part of decision-making moving forward. In much the same way we approach consensus within the BOD, we hope we’re increasing understanding, if not agreement.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to get in touch via BOD@SDCAP.org

SDCAP 2019 Collaborative Arts Grant Proposal

***ATTENTION ALL ARTISTS***

Do you have an idea or vision for large interactive art? Do you want to build it in San Diego and take it to Burning Man? If so, we have a grant opportunity just for you!

The SDCAP SD Regional Collaborative Arts Grant for community driven art destined for Burning Man is now open! A grant for matching funds up to $15,000 is available!

Proposals are now being accepted and the deadline for applications is Dec. 31st. We can’t wait to see what you want to create for so many to enjoy – happy arting!

For more information and to submit a proposal please follow this link.

Board Retreat 12/1/18

The SDCAP Board of Directors has a retreat coming up on 12/1/18.  Board Retreats are a standard shindig for non-profits, as they’re a way for Board members to bond while talking about the big picture for the organization. SDCAP has retreats 2-3 times per year for 1-2 full weekend days. No voting takes place at Board Retreats, which means we don’t make decisions about how to spend money. We use the time to hash out future-oriented ideas that don’t fall neatly under the business we conduct at regular Board Meetings.

Agenda topics for this upcoming retreat are related to YOUtopia and BOD governance. Agenda highlights include:

  • Possible changes to YOUtopia production model
  • Streamlining YOUtopia budget process
  • Implementing standardized process for YOUtopia Wrap-Up
  • Strategy to improve communications and collaboration between BOD, YOUtopia Production Team, and community at large

The biggest thing we’re covering is that first bullet point: whether to change the YOUtopia production model. This is something that’s been on our radar for a while and we’ve been reviewing alternate models used in other regions, with a focus on North American Regional Burns of a similar size to YOUtopia. We’re one of few Regional Burns that employs a Co-Producer Model; most comparable Regionals use small teams or committees to lead their events. Sometimes these teams overlap with the managing entity (be it a BOD or LLC), sometimes they don’t.

As part of our decision-making process, we’re asking the 2018 Production Team and anyone we can scrounge up from 2017 or prior to weigh in with their thoughts about whether we should try a different model in 2019. If you’ve volunteered for YOUtopia in the past as a Producer, Hub Lead, or Department Lead, we’d love to hear from you before 12/1/18. Please fill out this super-short survey to let us know what you think!

We’ll have a follow-up blog post in the week after the retreat so we can share outcomes.

Selection Process for the SDCAP Board of Directors

We’re about to begin selecting new members for the Board of Directors (BOD) to begin terms in March 2019. There’s been a lot of chatter about the BOD selection process, so we wanted to share some information about who we are, what we do, how we got here, and what to consider if you want to join us.

What is SDCAP?

The San Diego Collaborative Arts Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization founded in 2012. SDCAP’s Mission is to support collaborative arts in San Diego, particularly those aligned with the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Current SDCAP projects include YOUtopia, CoLab, and year-round grantmaking.

SDCAP is the legal entity. In the eyes of the law and the IRS, YOUtopia and CoLab don’t exist. They aren’t even DBAs. At the end of the day, SDCAP is the responsible party.

What is the BOD?

The BOD’s function is fiduciary, legal, and operational oversight. The BOD doesn’t initiate much (more on that below), and rather serves an administrative function in terms of protecting the organization and its assets. That’s what’s required by CA and federal law.

Legal requirements for non-profit governance fall into 3 categories: Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience. If you’re thinking about applying for the BOD, we recommend spending some time reading up on these terms and thinking about whether that’s truly the role you want to play in the organization. In practice, we spend a ton of time talking about budgets, accounting, liability, safety, and insurance. It’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD, per its bylaws and in accordance with the laws of CA, is comprised of anywhere from 7-15 Directors and is required to have a President/Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profit Boards are responsible for recruiting their own Directors.

All Directors:

  • Serve a 3-year term, working year-round.
  • Attend 2 BOD meetings per month, from 7-9pm on the 2nd and 4th Weds at CoLab.
  • Attend 2-3 weekend retreats per year.
  • Serve sober, on-call shifts at YOUtopia.
  • Spend anywhere from 10 to 40+ hours per week working via email/phone/ad hoc meetings to conduct SDCAP business.
  • Are volunteers.
  • Are still eligible to apply for and receive grant funding from SDCAP, but must recuse themselves from voting on these matters and disclose any potential conflicts of interest on an annual and ongoing basis.

The SDCAP BOD generally operates using a consensus model, as is considered a best-practice by many a non-profit governance guru. If you’re not familiar with consensus models, this is another thing we recommend reading up on before you throw your hat in the ring.

What does the BOD make happen for the San Diego Burning Man community?

Not much. Due to the nature of non-profit governance, we’re primarily about protecting the assets of the 501(c)(3), so we can keep having YOUtopia, keep the lights on at CoLab (and hopefully expand it in the coming years), and keep giving out art grants year-round, as those are the ways we advance our mission. It can often feel (to us and others) like we’re the fun police. We’re part of a system of checks and balances, and we’re the risk-averse side of the system. We’re more likely to prevent than to instigate or initiate. Again, not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD does select the YOUtopia Producers each year. And then we work with the Producers in developing, approving, and managing the YOUtopia budget – including oversight of the interdisciplinary Art Grants Committee. We also work with the Producers on anything within event operations that could have financial or safety or legal consequences, pose an existential threat to the event, or fall under one of the 3 Duties of non-profit governance.

If you’re primarily interested in joining the BOD in order to have a big impact on the look and feel of YOUtopia “on the ground,” you may be disappointed. The BOD doesn’t have anything to do with the soundscape, theme camp placement, volunteer SWAG, whether there’s enough grilled cheese in Commissary, or how many Kubotas are allocated to each department. The BOD does have oversight of things like Volunteer Ticket pricing, Commissary budget, total budget for Kubotas, and capital investments to Safety equipment; those are all areas the BOD and Producers collaborate on in the early stages of YOUtopia planning, as we hammer out a budget. Execution of the budget and overall operations for the event are entrusted to the Producers and their Leads Team… until/unless something gets escalated to the BOD because of – you guessed it – financial or legal reasons.

That’s not to say the BOD doesn’t ever get involved in Production matters. One example is that in 2018 we got a lot of feedback from our volunteers that the balance is off when it comes to hours worked vs ticket pricing and perks. Volunteers are working too much and feel under-appreciated and under-supported. This is the sort of issue the BOD can and will be involved in addressing, in collaboration with the 2019 Production Team. It’s a delicate balance, though: while the BOD will be a part of setting the big picture for 2019, the “on the ground,” volunteer experience is still going to be largely dictated by the Leads Team. It’s sort of like how your day-to-day life at your job is primarily determined by your immediate manager, not the CEO.

BOD Selection Process History (aka “real fake elections”)

Per SDCAP’s bylaws and the State of CA, non-profit boards are responsible for selecting their Directors. From 2012 to 2017, in addition to BOD members recruiting community members for service, there were also “Advisory Elections,” in order to take the pulse of the community. These Advisory Elections were never definitive (SDCAP is not a democracy or a co-op – that’s not how non-profit governance works), and the BOD always retained the right to make its own selections. The results of the Advisory Elections did historically align with the BOD’s selections. However, by 2017 participation in the Advisory Elections had dwindled to approx. 85 people total (out of a local community of many thousands of people), which is in no way representative. At the same time, the BOD realized we needed people with very specific non-profit management skills in order to continue to grow up as an organization. So we scrapped the Advisory Elections, while keeping a Community Feedback Form (which had 22 respondents), so community members could still weigh in on the folks running for BOD seats. In 2017, the sitting BOD attempted to fill 3 open seats for 2018, reached consensus about 2 candidates, and left 1 seat vacant.

BOD 2018 Mid-Cycle Appointments

As mentioned previously, SDCAP is required to have between 7-15 members on the BOD. Due to the 1 open seat from the 2017 selection and then 3 mid-cycle resignations, we suddenly found ourselves down to only 5 members. As it is the BOD’s right and responsibility to get back up to 7+ members as quickly as possible, we decided to do some mid-cycle appointments. And as is required and typical every selection cycle, current BOD members recruited from the community, specifically targeting people we know have the skills we want. That’s how we got our 2 Interim Directors. And we are damn lucky to have them. The Interim Directors’ terms end in March 2019, and they are both eligible to run in this upcoming cycle to begin full terms immediately.

Because we’ve gotten some feedback that the process wasn’t transparent enough: In addition to the 2 people we recruited, we also posted the open BOD member position to multiple Facebook pages and sent an email including information about mid-cycle selections to over 8,000 people – everyone who purchased a YOUtopia ticket in 2015, 2016, and 2017. EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE. We received one additional application.

2019 Selection Process

We’re still working on the details, so please don’t hold us to this 100% just yet. The process is likely to include:

  • Applications Open (December)
  • Applications will be ranked to determine the Best Qualified candidates per the Job Description
  • Best Qualified candidates will be invited to interview at an Open Candidate Forum held at CoLab (January)
  • Community Advisory Election, with option to cast votes either at the Open Candidate Forum or online (January)
  • Community narrative feedback via confidential/anonymous online form (January)
  • Optional Facebook Q&A in the existing Candidate Forum Group (for those who use Facebook – not a requirement for BOD service)
  • BOD finalizes selections (February)
  • New Directors begin their terms 2nd Wednesday in March

Open BOD Seats in 2019

BOD Members serve 3 year terms, with 3 positions turning over at once each March. Because of an unfilled seat and 3 resignations in 2018, things got pretty funky. We’re staggering the terms for the new Directors coming on in 2019 in order to get things back on track.

Our goal is to get back up to 9 members. There are 6 seats available, as follows:

  • 1 seat for term ending in 2020
  • 2 seats for term ending in 2021
  • 3 seats for term ending in 2022

BOD Member Job Description

Applications are not yet live, but the Job Description is. When applications go live in December, we’ll send out an email and there will be posts on Facebook. 

Got Questions?

If you’re considering joining the BOD, the first thing to do is start attending BOD meetings. Attendance at at least 2 meetings is required prior to being considered for an interview. Attending all BOD meetings between now and March is strongly encouraged.

Beyond that, feel free to reach out to current BOD members if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat. We’re all willing (individual schedules permitting) to talk with you about our personal experience serving on the BOD, if you want a 1:1 conversation in-person or by phone. You can reach out to any of us individually and all of us via BOD@SDCAP.org.