New Theme Camp Frustration

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MarlaBlack
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New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by MarlaBlack » Sat May 25, 2013 12:00 pm

Hello my lovely burning family,

I never ever post here, but in a moment of extreme overwhelm and frustration, I come a-knocking. Here's my quandary:
A couple of friends and myself have decided to start a theme camp this year. Our camp already has a great theme, quite a few interested members, and a submitted/approved application. The problems begin directly thereafter. The three of us are in complete lack of communication, with plans being changed on the fly (for instance, at our first meeting, we agreed on a camp of 20 or fewer members, and I found out last week through leader #2 that leader #3 has decided to double that number and has not informed me. What's more, both leader #2 and leader #3 are loud, fast talkers, where I am soft-spoken and calculated in my communication and action, so when the three of us interact together, I am seldom heard.

To make matters worse, :oops: the community that we are an offshoot of (a 2012 CORE group) is experiencing serious ramifications from, uh, sketchy accounting practices last year, and the whole community is fragmented because of some stupid money bullshit that is turning in to stupid legal bullshit that is turning into petty grouping and avoidance. :|

My question here is obviously disorganized and the point is dull, but generally, how can I find sanity in this?! Even further, how can I present my ideas so that they will be heard? I am so excited by this theme camp, as I've always wanted to be a leader in camp, and it becomes even more important for me to have a good base of operations, as I will be six months pregnant by the time the burn rolls around. :shock:

Along that same point, but before I start wantonly rambling, how popular are camp meal-plans/dinner plans (the type where a small fee is collected and one person pre/post prepares meals on playa from those who choose to pay)? I know that I am in love with meal plans, as I really like how group dinners build community :coffee: in the camp, but is that an exception? Are most burners of the philosophy that returning to camp for a meal is a fool's errand?

Can any of you wise, experienced folk help me to sort this out, even just a little? Even some light trolling might help distract me.

<3 MAR

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Eric
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Eric » Sat May 25, 2013 12:30 pm

The easy part: I think a lot of people love the idea of group meals, but you need to make sure that A) kitchen duty isn't dumped on people who didn't want it, or B) that you have a kitchen crew lined up who want to do it. Personally I would hate being part of programmed meals - I've been in control of my own food since I've been going, and there's no way that I'm going to be in camp at a specific time for a specific activity, but I've also never signed up for a camp that offered them.

That said, you have deeper issues. You're leadership "team" is anything but, and if you're not getting your ideas heard at this point I'd bet high stakes you get heard less as time moves on. Outgoing, aggressive leaders can work with quieter ones, but only if the more aggressive one is willing to listen, and if the quieter one can find a way to assert themselves to be heard. That is obviously not happening here.

Let me give an example - I have a friend who is a pretty shy person and is a camp leader, but when she goes up to one of the campers with a problem with "that look" in her eyes, you know that she doesn't need to raise her voice to get her point across. She is willing to take the deep breath & confront someone, even though it's not in her nature. If you're not willing to do that, this is going to get away from you - and already is, from your description. If you have three "leaders" and one makes a decision without including you, that person is not respecting you as a leader, nor thinking of you as one.
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some seeing eye
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by some seeing eye » Sat May 25, 2013 1:04 pm

Meals are an opportunity for the camp to work together. There are many kitchen threads. We had a chief meal organizer. For each meal, there was a person responsible for ingredients, 2 additional cooks, and a pot washer. Everyone of course did their own dishes and helped with the pots. All that washing generates significant grey water. Google docs are a good way to coordinate participation roles.

Regular meetings and making clear your concerns about consensus and equal participation would be a good start. I would start with a smaller camp rather than larger. And since the original community is fragmented, you have the opportunity to select only the ones that will get along and be hard workers.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by VultureChow » Sat May 25, 2013 1:20 pm

Can't speak to the meal plan, but on the leadership/meeting issue, I have some advice as a former quiet shy person now in a leadership position. Obviously not all of these might work for you.

1)Email - Email is the greatest thing ever for you. The loudest voice doesn't win in an email debate, the most coherent one does. Plus there is a record of who said what and what was agreed to. The more you can do over email, the less needs to be done in person where personalities and emotion can overwhelm productive discussion.

2)Specification - Three co-equal leaders is tough. The larger decisions might need to be consensus, but you should each have a focus that you are responsible for. Finances, schedules, record keeping, etc.

3)Agenda - When in person meetings are unavoidable, have an agenda. You can suggest, via email that given the short amount of time left, that you all contribute to an agenda for the next meeting. That process can also winnow out some topics/decisions that can be made now, over email, before the meeting. With an agenda, you can prepare your points and opinions ahead of time and practice articulating them in a forceful, but not obnoxious manner. In fact, being comfortable with your own opinions and thoughts will make it easier for you to speak up. The more knowledgeable you are about a subject, the easier it is to discuss confidently.

Good luck.


ETA: To clarify, my leadership position is in the default word, not camp politics.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by trilobyte » Sat May 25, 2013 1:53 pm

It's probably worth pointing out that while the application has been submitted and accepted, placement isn't announced until early July. Being added to the email announce list does not necessarily mean that the camp will be placed, it just means that you're still in the running.

Beyond that, welcome to the world of camp drama. Organizing and running a theme camp requires a lot more than coming up with an idea and getting a few people on board - without some solid leadership and teamwork, stuff like what you're experiencing is bound to happen. If you're going to go the leadership council route (a handful of people who consider themelves leaders), you're fucked if you're either not all on the same page, or if you don't split the responsibilities (and defer to that person in their area of specialty). Stuff like person X wrangles the kitchen, person y wrangles setup/teardown/LNT, and person z wrangles the art (or whatever). You guys may also be screwing yourselves if you're doing things like doubling your headcount. People in the camp need space for their tents, shade, vehicles, etc. Doubling that will eat up more space. If the questionnaire you submitted took population increases into consideration and you've got room to squeeze people in, you might be okay. But doubling sounds like more than just squeezing a few more people in, and could put you in a spot where you don't have enough room. Placed camps are allocated a specific amount of space, and it's not cool to just eat into your neighbors' space or play landgrabbing games with nearby unregistered space or dumping all your vehicles in a 'parking lot camp' someplace else in the city so you can get everyone into your space. Your neighbors and the placement team would likely catch on and take issue with that.

Adding in the accounting and legal(!) issues floating around, and I'd say you're asking for trouble and heartache to want to continue being a part of it. The bottom line of what you've said is that organization is very poor, there's a history of bad blood, sketchy moneyhandling, and mistrust among members of the group, and a general discord. Someone may have told you you're a camp leader, but if you're not even able to present your ideas - your campmates don't think of you as a leader. If you want to lead a camp, start your own camp and distance yourself from that ball of drama (you can always come visit your friends who are camping there). Don't worry about whether it's small or whether it's registered. If you want to be a camp leader, lead.

As for leading a camp 101, my first piece of advice would be to split from that group and camp with a small group of like-minded friends. A bunch of people that you wouldn't mind camping with even if you got all the way out to the desert and nobody else showed up and it was just you guys for the week. From there, it's a matter of wrangling the logistics. What you didn't learn from the camps you were with in the past, you can try and figure out through stuff like the theme camp resource guide on the main side or reading the boards (everything you need to know and more is already here), dig through the Preparation category's boards and read as much as you can.

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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Drawingablank » Sat May 25, 2013 2:12 pm

Your camp sounds like it will be a never ending source of drama - do you seriously want to put up with that on the playa?

Seems like the advice to form your own camp with a smaller group would make a lot more sense - choose your camp mates wisely.

The current setup with 3 leaders sounds fraught with pitfalls. "Too many cooks spoil the broth" is such a common adage, but very true. Leadership by committee is rarely without immense problems. Better a single leader with a good cabinet / comittee to assist and advise. There are good reasons why most organizations use that model at most levels all levels of government, corporations, school boards, PTAs, scout groups, sports leagues, etc...
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Captain Goddammit » Sat May 25, 2013 2:44 pm

I'm with Drawingablank.

I very very strongly recommend getting away from this camp!!!! That all sounds like a bunch of burn-ruining bullshit.
You'd be happier on your own.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by lemur » Sat May 25, 2013 3:13 pm

fuck that shit.

ditch it now.

drama fest.

bullshit fest.




judging by the BS i see in your post id imagine a "meal plan" (ONE THAT INVOLVES PEOPLE PAYING CASH INSTEAD OF BRINGING DONATIONS) is a huge mistake.


dont do it!


signed: someone who at one point was on a 'council' type leadership plan for 200~ person camp.. which realized that doesnt work as well as having 1 leader and people responsible for each part of the camp (as mentioned above: kitchen person, setup person, cleanup person..overall leadership eperson etc)

ditch this camp. itd be better to camp alone than be stuck in some 'meal plan' with some campmates who are a buncha drama whores
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Captain Goddammit » Sat May 25, 2013 3:44 pm

Gotta add one more thing: Almost every year I was part of a large camp and I understand the attraction to being part of that - but our first one got really big and similar drama began to happen and we just shut the whole thing down.
I've been with other small-to-medium ones since and everything has been great, and in '07 I even did what I'm suggesting and just went by myself (and First Mate), no "camp" and had a terrific time.
Don't be afraid to break your tie with the big camp.

Really... if you even had to write that stuff... if you never write here at all but this was bad enough to compel you to speak up... just get the hell away from it! Burning Man is FULL of other people to hang out with and things to see and do.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Savannah » Sat May 25, 2013 4:43 pm

I especially like what VultureChow had to say about discussing most things via email (and Trilo's warning about doubling the size of your camp with regards to Placement).

In my experience, a camp can be organized entirely by email &--even better--an online message board specific to the camp. Plans are drawn up and shared, strategies are discussed, placement questionnaire cobbled together, volunteers solicited for a shift, who's-bringing-what supplies for the grilled cheese night divvied up, etc. Everyone can be heard, there's lots of talking, & all the info is easily referenced; grouped by subject and year.

I'm most familiar with the 1-leader + specialists model. 1 highly trustworthy, capable, experienced person has evolved into the leadership position, & has the official final say (in the not-terribly-common event that there is something huge and non-obvious to be settled). However, another person has charge of the music, and there's a committee of about 6 folks discussing placement and composing the questionnaire, and an overlapping group that composes the crisis resolution team (a group of men and women that can be approached by any camper with a concern). If we had a meal plan, we'd probably have one person in charge of that--although they might solicit 1 or 2 helpers.

I've literally never been in a camp with a meal plan. I like a low-maintenance camp, don't like adhering to a schedule, and barely make time to eat, much less cook or clean dishes. But sharing a meal is definitely a bonding experience. If there's resistance in your group to a meal plan, or not enough people who truly wanna cook and clean up on a daily basis, schedule just 1 or 2 meals, collect some cash, and be ready to cook the whole thing yourself (just in case). Maybe a good group dinner the first night after camp is fully set up, or a Friday feast, or Sunday morning breakfast. Or--cook for yourself whenever you want, make a few extra servings, and invite a few people at random. I think that can be particularly wonderful. (On Labor Day last year, a friend made eggs, chorizo and pancakes at random and shared it with a half a dozen folks nearest to her, and I don't think we would have survived the teardown so well if not for the fortification of that wonderful breakfast).


I suppose it's possible that if you bring your concerns to your co-leaders they'll snap to it and realize they need to improve communication & share decision-making. However, if they don't--or you've known them long enough to know how it's about to go down (and it sounds like you do)--there's nothing wrong with branching off and doing your own thing. It shouldn't be too hard to explain--you're at a time in your life when it's particularly understandable to seek a low-stress situation. Camping small with reasonable people is a wonderful thing. Earlier's obviously better than later, and you're well-spoken, so you might get out of it with all friendships and ties intact.

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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by EspressoDude » Sat May 25, 2013 4:46 pm

run run

you do not want to get stuck with meals for this group. What is being discussed now will not be what is expected on the playa. people signing up for shifts in the kitchen won't show up, be late, won't clean up etc. then someone will be late for dinner, no prepared food left, and start their own dinner using the next days rations. folks will grab bacon out of the pan with their hands instead of using a fork, just after coming back from the JOTS....next day everyone is at the JOTS.

not to forget camp mates will bring their latest 'friends' to a meal and now there is 24 for lunch instead of 20.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Simon of the Playa » Sat May 25, 2013 4:47 pm

The Burn is supposed to be fun!



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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by GreyCoyote » Sat May 25, 2013 5:01 pm

I have found the level of enjoyment is inversely proportional to the size of the camp. My best burns have been with 10-15 folks of similar disposition. We usually throw-in a virgin or two for entertainment but the camp is mostly the same people each year. We come from all points of the compass. Its the only time of year we get to see each other. We try to make our time special and unique, even within the uniqueness that is Burning Man.

We have a hard and fast rule: no stupid drama. Sure people get sunburned, fall off art cars, or have minor self-management issues, but these are expected. But relationship issues, of any kind, will get you bounced. We actually pitch a separate tent we call the Cooler. You can enter it voluntarily and everyone will leave you alone. Or you can get put there as a warning by a majority vote of the camp. If you dont get your act together, and quickly, you get to find a new camp.

My advice echos the rest: ditch this bunch of problems and start over. Keep it small, and focus on fun. Your burn will be infinitely better for it.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by maryanimal » Sat May 25, 2013 5:43 pm

If I may make a suggestion, get a few of your close friends. Maybe you alone should lead this camp. Get together and talk about what you want in that small group. There's a great possibility that with communication, things can fall together wonderfully. Be with like-minded people and maybe have a potluck for a meals together a few days that week. Either that or if you still want to continue with what you're planning, go for it. It just sounds like big problems will arise. Become louder than your co-partners and start putting your foot down. You've been given outstanding advice here! Here's to you having a great burn! *raising glass of iced tea!*


ETA: are you and your "partners" charging dues for your camp? Will everyone be bringing their own shade structures, kitchen set up? or will there be a communal set up?
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by theCryptofishist » Sat May 25, 2013 7:53 pm

At six months you do not want to be dealing with this shit. You may find you can't stand the playa at all. (That happened to a wife of a colleague last year.) You want something that's going to run smoothly whether or not you're there. If you have to leave in a hurry, you want to trust the people you leave behind to be able to handle anything that happens, and perhaps even pack up after you and return your things in good order. What you need is good friends, good shade, maybe AC, and access to good food that you want to eat. Small camp it with trusted associates. Or skip it this year.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by AbundantChoice » Sat May 25, 2013 8:29 pm

Also, 40 seems pretty big for a brand new camp. It's not just the power structure of the three leaders; at that size you need either well-honed systems in place that can rein in playa anarchy that only come with stable leadership, or very clear areas of responsibility with people you can trust in various areas of importance.

Problems that are solvable (on and off playa) with a group of 15-20 via discussion and something approaching voting/consensus cease to be so at 35-50 people.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Lowz » Tue May 28, 2013 2:32 pm

1) propose "meal plan"
2) get the money
3) run
4) everyone is frustrated : achievement "theme complete" unlocked

the best i can do for light trolling
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Major Krash » Tue May 28, 2013 3:20 pm

being a veteran Burner, you certainly are aware that problems tend to get magnified on-playa, not go away. It appears the three Leaders of this camp have communication and boundary issues. These will only get worse on-playa. Also, now it is just the three of you stressing - the rest of the camp is (possibly) unaware of these issues. Once the whole camp is looking at a bad burn, with the three of you to point fingers at, oh boy!

There is still time for plan B....wish them luck and walk I say
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by BBadger » Wed May 29, 2013 12:43 am

  1. Parallel tasks, including leadership roles, work best when exclusive to each other. Assign specific leaders specific -- exclusive -- leadership roles. This gives the person both the power to get things done, as well as the responsibility for what happens. Advice may be solicited, but final say is in the leader. Yes, competency is important, so choose wisely.
  2. All meetings and plans need to be documented. This is why email, or shared documents/worksheets (try Google Docs), are a great way to plan. If you're meeting in person, bring a tape recorder as well as take notes. Have a final document that is the final written word on any decision. If someone wants to change parameters, it must go into that document. Think of it as a code of law. This also prevents one person from dominating the meetings, though not so much the planning document.
  3. If you're the core leadership group, be prepared to do everything in the camp, including MOOPing, clean-up, take-down, scheduling, etc. That is your cross to bear. That' is also why you should start off small with people you know and trust, and then slowly accept members. Also be prepared to deny people.
  4. Paid meal plans suck, especially if people try to opt out. The way our camp do meals is that smaller sub-groups are responsible for one night's dinner (or brunch on Sunday) for the entire camp (buying, preparing, cleaning up). Breakfasts and lunches are individual responsibilities. This ensures that people are only responsible for one night worth of duties (including washing the kitchen, but not peoples' dishes) and frees everyone of the responsibility of cooking dinner the remaining nights. This builds camp community and accountability because people want to cook good meals for everyone else. Still, make sure that you get a list of the planned meal so that it isn't four days of enchiladas. We tend to have new members get Thursday or Friday night, while vets and people who are more involved can have earlier week days. People who arrive early to set up camp don't need to take a meal day as well.
  5. Camp dues should be consistent for all members. People can't trade in labor for dues, but can be paid back for stuff like gas. This prevents "favors" from creeping into the camp structure. The dues should represent what it is worth for people to be in your theme camp, and may even run a surplus which can pay for your extra duties, extra supplies, projects, etc.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by theCryptofishist » Wed May 29, 2013 8:29 pm

Despite our reputation as a conformity factory shoving our collective opinion down people's throats, you rarely see so much anonymity in an eplaya thread.
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by MegsLegs » Fri May 31, 2013 7:15 am

We do a meal plan in our camp, breakfast and dinner prepared onsite and the budget comes out of a larger "dues pot" that goes toward everything- repairs to the gennie, transpo for infrastructure, new speakers when they finally die etc, and dues are not optional. Everyone in the camp of 80 signs up for one meal shift when they join for the year. It's part of the joy of camping with us, and if that doesn't sound right for someone, no hard feelings, we hope they visit and enjoy our hospitality.

Is it ideal? Not always, and the person planning the kitchen has the hardest job on our leadership committee satisfying everyone's real allergies/fake allergies/vegetarian or pure carnie meat lust, but for someone who crosses the continent to burn, it's helpful and for the camp at large it's a great way to bond with and meet new campmates who arrive throughout the week

Regarding Leadership:

Email is great for introverts- and also, presuming your co-leads are friends of yours, I would mention how you feel- you might find that they don't realize it's happening, and are rather mortified (extroverts often are!) that they're trampling you, and will prioritize a reshape of the way things are working.

Make clear-put it down on paper- how decisions are made: Consensus, Majority, Speciality Area Kings etc. Our camp leadership committee of 12 has a head, who shapes the vision for the year, however consensus is the goal, and if two people are in conflict, they take efforts to work it out.

We had a "shrink the camp-keep the camp big" conflict last year, and compromised to the middle of the hi/lo numbers. Top Tip- we always end up about 10 people more than our desired Max- no matter what, so you might want to factor in about that many people you're going to let in after you've theoretically capped membership.

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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by susieclue » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:57 pm

I'm camp mom for our camp and a 14 year veteran. There can only be one boss. There can be a transportation captain, a build captain, a kitchen captain, but only one boss. If there is no mutual respect among the management team, then stay excited, bow out as a boss this year, and go enjoy the week. Watch and learn. You don't need the drama. Camp next to them. Share certain resources if you want to but if you're having these problems now, the drama will likely not be worth the "boss" title.

Our themecamp charges dues for all food and soft drinks and cooking/bathing water. We bring out a hot water shower, have a full theme camp, art car, bicycles, generator, BBQ, and freezer. Two of us compile a list of likes/dislikes for food and take special requests. Then we shop and prepare en mass. We have a 10x20 kitchen that we all share but we don't cook for our camp. We do, however, usually end up cooking together just because it's fun. We ask the participants to bring their own drinking water to cut down the weight of our always overpacked trailers and to let them experience a tiny bit of the packing themselves. Plug and play camps do exist but people need to understand how frigging expensive all of this costs - gas/diesel/propane/oil/themecamp supplies/storage/etc.etc. And speaking as the accountant for our camp who has been involved with an international core group, always get receipts. No receipt, no reimbursement. It has to be a hard and fast rule and it has to be maintained. We have a separate bank account and all have access to see the transactions.

If you don't want drama but still want to be involved in a theme camp, come camp with us! We'd be glad to mentor you.

Susieclue
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Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Savannah » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:06 pm

Kickass first post. :D Welcome to ePlaya!
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Camp Name: Mudskipper Cafe
Location: Palm Springs
Contact:

Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Elderberry » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:58 pm

Hey there, welcome to eplaya!
JK
Image
http://www.mudskippercafe.com
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me

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Elderberry
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Posts: 14685
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 10:00 pm
Burning Since: 2007
Camp Name: Mudskipper Cafe
Location: Palm Springs
Contact:

Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Elderberry » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:59 pm

Hey susieclue, how much are the camp dues?
JK
Image
http://www.mudskippercafe.com
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me

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tattoogoddess
Posts: 2100
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:22 pm
Burning Since: 2012
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by tattoogoddess » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:08 pm

Fucking plug n plays. 2014 theme... Burning pap!!!
maladroit- Burning Man is like a second job, except you pay to work there.
Burning Man is just the pre party for exodus! - fellow burner during exodus

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Elderberry
Moderator
Posts: 14685
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 10:00 pm
Burning Since: 2007
Camp Name: Mudskipper Cafe
Location: Palm Springs
Contact:

Re: New Theme Camp Frustration

Post by Elderberry » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:29 pm

Lots of good advice here.
JK
Image
http://www.mudskippercafe.com
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me

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