Dear Element 11 Community,
We are the Element 11 Code of Conduct Committee. We are volunteers and members of the community. We are a diverse group and have cumulatively served the Burn Community for over 70 years. We are your neighbors and friends. We love the community we are part of, and we pour our blood, sweat, and tears into it, just like you do. In that spirit, we agree; it is time for us to share more information about who we are, what we are up to, and our hopes for the future.
The Code of Conduct:
We all know that Burners are a trusting, caring, openhearted lot. We believe in many idealistic principles which guide our yearly adventures together. One that is near and dear to all our hearts is Radical Inclusion. Simply defined by Burning Man:
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
This principle creates endless possibilities for collaboration, creativity, relationships, and community. It creates the possibility for diversity of people and ideas. It brings people together, and that brings an abundance of knowledge and skill. Every year we pull off incredible feats simply by opening the door to anyone who wishes to walk through it.
However, the principle of Radical Inclusion does not include freedom from the consequences of our actions. Nor does it prohibit the community from defining the behaviors that inhibit the participation or self-expression of other individuals. None of the Ten Principles are meant to exist in isolation independent from the others. For example, Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility help to define Radical Inclusion:
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”
We also believe that Consent is Principle Zero. A positive consent culture is essential for the safety of participants and contributes to creative self-expression and participation. When we get consent and give it free from coercion, manipulation, or threats, we can remove assumptions and entitlement from our interactions. We can all relax and be ourselves.
The Code of Conduct was written with these principles in mind and is meant to protect our community, its social networks, our shared spaces, works of art, and collaborative efforts to create something beautiful and to share it. The Code of Conduct is written to serve the welfare of our community and the participants at Element 11 events.
The Code of Conduct is an agreement we all enter when purchasing a ticket to Element 11. We agree to be considerate and respectful. We agree not to harm, discriminate, or harass others. We agree to consensual interactions. We agree not to destroy property, to be stewards of the land, and to have respect for the community itself and the events. We agree not to vandalize things, steal things, or abuse the ticketing process. We agree not to deliberately put ourselves or others in harm’s way.
These agreements are part of the culture that surrounds the Burn community at large. They make up the civil society we choose for ourselves by choosing to participate in this community, in this culture.
Because we are human, sometimes we harm each other. The Code of Conduct is written to address harm. Unfortunately, serious action has been required to address harm at Element 11 for many years. The same is true of all regional events.
The Code of Conduct is intended to protect and support the survivors among us.
It is also meant to guide the process by which a person, who has caused harm to others and was suspended from attending events, can make their way back to the community as they reflect on their actions and learn new ways of behaving and participating that do not harm others or pose a risk to the events.
Finally, the Code of Conduct defines the role of the Code of Conduct Committee and outlines our responsibilities. It sets limitations upon us so that in our role as volunteers, we can apply the code as fairly as possible. Including under unique, difficult, and disheartening circumstances.
The Code of Conduct Committee:
The formation of the current The Code of Conduct Committee and the Code of Conduct was collaborative. Some of us got together to address the challenges our community has faced. Others were invited to join, and others asked to participate. We approached similar committees in other regions to see how they operate. We’ve taken the best our neighbors have to offer and created something we believe will serve our Element 11 community well. This process is not finished; the Committee is learning and growing, too. We want to do what is best for the community and remain in line with the values outlined in this letter.
What the members of our Committee have in common is dedication to the community. We honor The Ten Principles, and we value fairness. We take our commitments very seriously. They include:
– the safety of our community
– support for victims and survivors
– educational resources
– healing for all folks involved
– confidentiality for all people involved
– integrity and making fair decisions
– awareness of our own biases and self-recusal where necessary
– offering a path back when feasible
– updating our processes as we learn
As part of our tasks, we address reports submitted through the webpage form. After receiving reports, we perform inquiries as thoroughly as we can. We offer support and resources. Each report/incident is entirely different. Sometimes, we accept reports outside of the formal submission process, but our inquiries are conducted the same. We always emphasize fairness to all involved.
We reach recommendations by consensus and then submit them to the Element 11 Board of Directors, Executive Committee. The Executive Committee makes the final determinations about which corrective action to take if any. The accused always has a right to submit an annual appeal to the Board. The accused also has the opportunity, and often the obligation, to interact with the Code of Conduct Committee for further discourse and education so we can try to ascertain whether the individual has made changes.
The Code of Conduct Committee is not a law enforcement or judicial authority. We cannot offer assurances that the reporter or witnesses will be safe through the inquiry process or if a ban from events is imposed. For survivors and reporters that need this level of support, we recommend they make reports to law enforcement. A legal report is not required for us to undertake our process.
The Hard Parts:
Each report we receive is different. Some take very little time or effort to understand, or the stakes are not very high. Some have external deadlines that impact our inquiry. If someone were to take accountability for their mistakes right away, we could begin to resolve matters immediately. Gear can be returned, apologies and repairs can be made, and an understanding can be reached. We all move on.
Unfortunately, it is usually not that simple. Usually, reports require many, many conversations and a great deal of consideration over weeks, months, and in some instances, a year or more. Often the stakes are very high. We worry about all the same things the rest of the community does. We must weigh possibilities, stories, memories, and accounts. Many of the reports we receive do not just have repercussions for Element 11; they have consequences in the Default World. We worry about the safety of all involved. For that reason, we keep the facts and names of reporters, survivors, witnesses, and accused people private and only release that information when we have written permission and only on a need-to-know basis. Sometimes that confidentiality delays and complicates the process. We know it can be a source of frustration, but it is required to promote the safety of reporters and witnesses. It also limits public shaming of everyone involved.
It is not easy to participate on the Code of Conduct Committee. We give our time and attention year-round to the sides of our community that are the most painful to confront. We bear witness to fear, sorrow, grief, betrayal, and violence. It is painful to learn that members of our community cause harm to others. We are the keepers of graphic details. We are witnesses to the resulting suffering. We are responsible for untangling the stories. We volunteered to take responsibility for deciding what to do next, how to answer “is anyone going to do something about this?” – how to promote healing, learning, and growth. We agreed to do it, knowing that the community will not always accept or understand the recommendations we make to the Executive Committee. It is particularly disheartening to see people develop opinions/theories about reported incidents with only a limited, incomplete set of details. We suspect that if you had access to the full details and impact of an incident, you would likely reach similar conclusions. All the while, we maintain empathy and compassion and promote hope for everyone involved in the process – accused, reporters, and survivors alike. We strive to do so, knowing it is an act of service to our community. We do it in the spirit of Radical Inclusion, Radical Self-Reliance, Civic Responsibility, and Communal Effort. We do it for love and because when our values are clear, so too can be the path for healing and personal growth.
We do not recommend bans lightly. We always hope the accused will take accountability for their actions and the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve to the point that they can return. It is up to the individual to drive the accountability process forward. It’s a profound act of radical responsibility for them to restore trust surrounding their participation within our community.
As members of the Code of Conduct Committee, we do not expect to always get everything right. After all, to err is human. We will always strive to do our best. We will adjust or adapt when necessary. We will always work to balance the needs of all our community members. Seeing folks on the path to healing and self-improvement is profoundly rewarding.
We ask for your patience, understanding, and support. We hope you will be curious and respectful. We hope you can share compassion, have empathy for one another, and offer your support. We hope that if you need our help, you will trust us with your story and make a report. We hope that if you’ve made a mistake or a choice that hurt another, you will work with us to help make it right.
We are all in this together.
-the Element 11 Code of Conduct Committee