Maker Metropolis

Photo Credit, Scott London

The most Maker City of any city is without doubt Burning Man, a remote place where nothing exists until its citizens create it — once a year, and for only a week.

Every August, Burning Man rises in Nevada’s barren Black Rock Desert, a thousand square miles of wilderness with no water, no electricity, no services, nothing really but a vast playa (a dried antediluvian lake bed) in one of the most beautiful and harsh environments in America.

It was this stunning blank canvas that initially inspired people to come together to dream up a city where they could follow any whim they wanted to try. A do-it-yourself community fueled by the love, triumph, fun, and failure of creating the world they wanted to live in. It has become a Maker metropolis that real cities are learning from today. Ultimately Burning Man is about place making with the entire city built “by the people, for the people.” This sense of freedom and engagement leads to civic agency that has practical implications for how cities can embrace the spirit of making — and become a maker city.

The community started out organically in 1986 and has evolved into a city imagined and reinvented by its 70,000 participants each year. It’s a metropolis of creatives, Makers, performers, explorers, and inventors with its own post office, airport, radio stations, newspapers, volunteer rangers, a DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles), and a plethora of large-scale interactive art — with no branded content at all. It is a gift economy where nothing is bought or sold, so participants must be self-reliant and at the same time come together to learn, create, and thrive. When the event is over, the whole thing vanishes without a trace. Black Rock City, the largest annual Burning Man gathering, is meticulously cleaned up and packed out by all of its participants at the end of the week.

Key Principles of Engagement:

In 2004, Larry Harvey, one of the organization’s Founders, assembled Burning Man’s 10 Principles as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture to help nurture organic offshoots around the world. In no way prescriptive, these patterns of behaviors serve as guidelines for affiliation and help encourage emergent activity for thousands of participants, theme camps, and art project teams who embrace it as a framework.

In many ways, it’s these principles that provide the permission for social experiments to take place, and for society to be prototyped and re-designed. These principles are often in tension with one another: Radical self-reliance and Radical self expression are all about the individual. Civic Responsibility and Radical Inclusion are all about the community. It’s this constant interplay between collective governance, individual novelty, and emergent activity that is the scaffolding that makes Burning Man such a creative Maker City.

“Out of nothing, we created everything,” Burning Man Founder, Larry Harvey

Burning Man and the Maker Movement:

The event has received much attention for being a petri dish for new technology and art fueling the Maker Movement. However, Burning Man culture is less about the artifacts and more about the mentality of being a Maker and the values of participation, experimentation, and play, with a point of view that is focused on the art first. Beauty and curiosity are put on the same level as functionality and creations are often burned at the end of the week.

A key principle highlighting the Maker spirit of the city is participation. There are no “observers” at Burning Man. The belief is that to be there and receive gifts everyone must participate. Giving permission to everyone to create makes for a heightened sense of civic responsibility and communal effort. These are ideas that enhance any city.

How the City Works:

Preparations for Burning Man take months and involve scores of volunteers, who work together to create the different camps or neighborhoods where people will live as well as the large-scale and interactive public artwork that will decorate the desert floor.

The principle of Civic Participation is furthered by the principle of “leave no trace” — nothing on the desert floor when you arrived; leave it that way. As in real cities, Burning Man uses data and maps to monitor all this. Volunteers develop a “Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) Map” which helps to grade camps on how well they remove traces of anything. This is an example of data about the community being used to drive appropriate behavior.

No cars are allowed inside Black Rock City.

Instead, roving works of art double as public transport. These “Mutant Vehicles” take people around the inner ring of Black Rock City as well as into the City Center. Every year, Mutant Vehicles get more elaborate and ambitious and require ever greater feats of engineering and imagination.

El Pulpo Mecanico was built in Arcata California, Humboldt County. Designed and built by Duane Flatmo along with his friend Jerry Kunkel who masterminded the electrical systems and flame effects. Photo Credit, Scott London.

Black Rock City is Designed in a Radial Fashion

At the center of the radius is “the Man,” an iconic sculpture which can tower 100 feet and is burned in ceremonial fashion on the last night of the week-long festival. Streets are mapped out only from 10:00 to 2:00, leaving open space for views of the mountains and to create lines of sight to the “Playa,” where most of the large-scale art is located.

At 6:00 on the map, you’ll find downtown, the heart of the city known as Center Camp, a 45,000-square-foot shaded structure informed by one of the most important influential models of civic design, the Italian Piazza. This comfortable gathering place encourages chance meetings, deep conversations, and new ideas — much like the historical cafe culture that has given birth to everything from existentialism to beat poetry. It is extremely important to have this feature of urban life, this “third space,” as a special meeting and social hub, at Black Rock City.

Photo Credit, Brad Templeton

“The city’s design helps maintain the sense of expansive, infinite possibility that is natural to the landscape, and also encourages people to voyage out and discover new things. Everyone is attracted to the center and makes their pilgrimage to the Man,” says Burning Man Co-Founder Harley Dubois, making random collisions inevitable and part of the flow. Serendipity is literally part of the “way” here.

Photo Credit, Duncan Rawlinson

The Growth of the Movement:

Burning Man culture has expanded worldwide with 270 volunteer regional representatives who mentor the community in 35 countries and 130 cities and towns. These communities, embedded in American and global communities, are a significant source of inspiration, volunteer capacity, and Maker know-how.

This year’s Burning Japan was held at Iwafune-san, a rock quarry dating back to the Edo era. Photo Credit, Kiruke.

People take the immediacy and civic responsibility home with them. Building Burning Man gives people a sense of their own agency and makes it clear how radical self-expression and civic engagement ultimately leads to a better life. It’s this civic pride — a more engaged form of citizenship not just in Black Rock City but in the real world — that underlies the global voluntary association and network of social trust known as the “Burner” community.

Emergent Activity in the World

David Best, for example, is famous for creating architecturally elaborate temporary temples across the globe. He never imagined that what began as an experiment in the desert would become a worldwide phenomenon. As a result of his initial structure at Burning Man in 2000, the Temple is now a permanent installation built by different guilds, volunteers, and collaborators who submit proposals of their interpretation for what a Temple might be. Being selected to build the temple is a high honour; it has helped many new talents establish themselves internationally.

Photo Credit, Scott London Burning Man 2014, Temple of Grace

In 2015, the Artichoke Foundation commissioned David Best to work with the community of Derry, Northern Ireland to build a Temple on a remote hilltop overlooking the city. The project was designed to unite the community, celebrate togetherness, and help citizens and residents of Derry heal from its traumatic history of conflict. In California, the Temple build crew trained and worked with local students and adults who completed apprenticeships and participated in the build with support from local Fablabs — a form of apprenticeship and skills training.

Photo Credit, Artichoke Trust

Burning Man’s Civic Arm

Burners have also put their Maker skills to use healing communities through an organization called “Burners without Borders” (BWB). Begun as a response to Hurricane Katrina, volunteers with Burners without Borders provided over $1 million worth of reconstruction and debris removal over an eight-month period.

Burners without Borders spawns new projects each year. One shining example is Communitere, a dynamic and sustainable organization that provides Makerspaces to communities that have suffered from natural disasters. This allows people to create the relief efforts they need for themselves, tapping into their own skills and resiliency and applying their knowledge of what they and their neighbors actually need right now. Communitere now operates in Haiti, Nepal, and the Philippines, providing space to NGOs like Field Ready, who is pioneering the use of 3D printers in disaster areas.

Field Ready training volunteers at Haiti Communitere in Haiti 2015. Photo Credit,

Lessons for the Maker City

Burning Man has been called a “permission engine” that allows for both radical individual expression and rich community collaboration. It’s a construct built on trust and shared values that allows its constituents to create all the facets of the city they want to live in.

The 2016 theme for Burning Man was “Da Vinci’s Workshop,” inspired by the Italian Renaissance when an historic convergence of inspired artistry, technical innovation, and enlightened patronage launched Europe out of medievalism and into modernity. The era was known as “The Age of Discovery,” when the ideas of da Vinci, Michaelangelo. Copernicus, and Columbus reimagined education, production, science, and politics. Like today it was an era of fundamental reframing. Renaissance workshops were forerunners of today’s Maker and innovation spaces — a breeding ground for new ideas that also helped them become reality. Ateliers were established in the Renaissance and saw participatory and vocational knowledge as the core of value creation. In the safe environment of the atelier, established artisans could spot and mentor new budding talent and ideas — networking them together across disciplines, thus fostering new potentials. The ateliers’ major themes resonate with the innovation economy today: turning ideas into action, cross pollinating art and science, and unleashing human imagination.

Photo Credit, Galen Oakes

The Burning Man Project

Rooted in the values expressed by the Ten Principles, this culture is manifested around the globe through art, communal effort, and innumerable individual acts of self-expression. 

As a newly formed nonprofit organization, the Burning Man Project is focusing on offering artists, changemakers, cities, nonprofits, and civic activations a path to becoming agents of change to manifest new ideas in the world.

Participating in Black Rock City or other regional Burning Man events is just one way to get involved with the community. Wherever you are and whatever your skills, there are plenty of exciting opportunities to volunteer, collaborate, submit ideas, and get involved with the global efforts of the Burning Man Network via

Jenn Sander is the Global Initiatives Advisor, Burning Man Project


“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo Da Vinci




This year's carefully crafted theme DAVINCI'S WORKSHOP
is interesting and important (to me at least) as a reflection of what is and has been happening for many years ....beyond the burning man event AND is perhaps worth reflecting on in relation to the question - why does Burning Man matter?

known by some as a party in the desert, it's important to note that THIS PARTY is ONE THAT CELEBRATES TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION.

Burning man In General is a reflection of DAVINCI'S methods AND Culture, both metaphorically and physically.

For me - It's as much about the atelier style workshop as it was about Da Vinci himself.

For those of you who don't know, The atelier is safe place for learning and experimentation. It's where we have the permission to unleash our human driven ability to innovate and evolve through our imagination.

Ateliers are not as well known in America, but - have been for many years a staple of European society - a participatory learning environment framed around apprenticeship discovery and co creation.

The concept of the artists, the thinker, the maker and inventor and of course where they play - their safe place their secret lair their autonomous zone... This is also known as an atelier and was where Davinci played.

Ateliers were established in the Renaissance and saw participatory and vocational knowledge as the core of value creation. This is similar to entrepreneurial learning -the idea that networks and communities can innovate by playing off each other.

Renaissance workshops were not just a breeding ground for new ideas; they helped ideas become reality.

In the vulnerable environment of the atelier - is where established artisans could spot and mentor new budding talent and ideas - networking them together across disciplines, thus fostering new potentials.

— that shows us that the combined intelligence of people and organizations with diverse cultural and industry backgrounds helps create a mash up of new innovations.

The ateliers three major selling points were turning ideas into action, creating dialogue, and encouraging the cross pollination of art and science: unleashing human imagination

This year at Burning Man we will have guilds and workshops around the man base - please see the info attached. AND - as you see in the rendering below - YES THE MAN WILL TURN THIS YEAR!

It’s both, fostering the conversation in spaces that provide the permission and the letting loose and playing for no reason or commitment to outcome that allows us to innovate. This is the HOW- TO of innovation… not sitting in a lab and trying to solve a problem, but working with others in playful free spaces that allow us to imagine what could be.

This is what DaVinci taught us. And what Burning Man means to me.

Wherever I lay my hat


Jenn Sander is a woman of no fixed abode, but she’s not homeless — on the contrary, the consultant has four flatshares in four cities.

There’s her two-bedroom penthouse in Vancouver, which she shares with a flatmate who divides his time between the Canadian city and Los Angeles. There’s the New York apartment: an open-plan pad in SoHo that she shares with the CEO of a not-for-profit firm. In San Francisco, she stays in a bedroom in the house of that same CEO. And in LA, she rents a four-bedroom house in Venice Beach with her Vancouver flatmate and a couple of entrepreneurs who also have homes in New York.

Formerly a London resident, Sander, 29, has removed the capital from her “rotation”, but a few times a year she stays at a warehouse in Bethnal Green, east London, leased by other young professionals. She doesn’t pay rent there, but has a quid pro quo arrangement with its occupants — they get free accommodation at her place when they come to New York.

Sander is often on a plane twice a week. “We’re a global tribe, an entrepreneurial network, and we basically move from place to place,” she says. “I have four house keys that I’ve been carrying around with me for the past three years. I’m not usually anywhere longer than a week.

“I share with groups of friends similar to me, who continually move between cities. We sign leases together, put money into our places and make them nice. If there’s a TED talk in town, we’ll put out extra mattresses — it’s a community. It’s definitely the start of something new.”

Welcome to the world of the global nomad, in which 1960s bohemianism meets digital capitalism, and young entrepreneurs try to have the best of all worlds: expanding their business, satisfying their wanderlust and avoiding the nine-to-five grind. Sander says the movement started in the tech industry about seven years ago, during the downturn, when entrepreneurs wanted to expand globally, but before Airbnb had taken off. “The tech community is tightknit, and started taking care of each other,” she says.

In 2013, she organised a sharing experiment in Bethnal Green: a nine-bedroom home that was leased by three permanent residents, with 17 beds for rotating guests. This was for beginner nomads, Sander says, who don’t stay anywhere longer than a few months. As they mature and crave more stability, however, they graduate into the “global time-share community”, a network of professionals who have a regular rotation of cities, but want the comforts of home.

Many nomads are devotees of the Burning Man festival, that modern-day Woodstock in the Nevada desert, where 70,000 free spirits erect a pop-up community for a week each year, and combine turning on, tuning in and dropping out with the world of LinkedIn.

Sander started working for Burning Man in 2013, and it fuelled her passion for “curating communities”. Many “Burners” belong to YesNomads, a 500-strong, invitation-only digital network for people sharing homes around the world. “People build experimental communities at Burning Man,” she says. “They develop a tight bond and want to stay connected. It’s a new kind of global citizenship, of people in the tech, arts and festival communities.

“My personal houseshare community consists of about 20 people from YesNomad who live as fluidly as I do. Global housesharing is about having your preferred network around you. It’s global engagement with a sense of family. We want to be around good people, grow our careers and organisations, and support and collaborate with each other.”

This is an ethos steeped in positivity and the philosophy of “post-nationalism”. “I have always wanted to be a global citizen,” says Sander, who grew up in Vancouver but moved to London when she was 18 and stayed there for several years before deciding to go nomad. “I am half east Indian and half British by descent. By nature, I feel connected to a lot of places. It’s to do with freedom and opportunity, flexibility and optimising your potential.”

It sounds glamorous, but rather exhausting. Sander disagrees. “Some people have nine-to-five, they come home on the weekend and they’re tired. They can’t wait for their next holiday. I think that’s strange. I don’t believe in holiday. A holiday means you’re taking a break from your life. I live a life of creativity and innovation. I’d never take a break from that.”

It can be impractical, though. Sander admits that she sometimes arrives in one city, only to find she’s left something behind at her other home, 3,000 miles away: “Amazon Prime is so useful.” She has also developed little tricks to make life simpler. She wears silk blouses and dresses because they don’t crease easily. Her suitcase has USB chargers and she carries a Mophie (external battery pack) to charge her phone.

She orders duplicate books, so she can keep one in each flat rather than lugging them around, as she doesn’t want to read from a Kindle all the time. And she keeps her best fashion in New York. “I don’t pack. I buy stuff I want to wear for a certain season that stays in my suitcase. It comes out, gets washed and goes back in.

“You must have duplicates of all your cosmetics,” she adds. “I have my Crème de la Mer in New York and Vancouver, and I use a brand of cosmetics called Stowaway, which sells online. It has smaller products that you can travel with and easily finish, so they don’t expire. I have a Clarisonic [skin brush] in each place, and Casper mattresses, so I’m comfortable. They’re delivered to your door and pop out of a box.”

“I lose clothes a lot,” says Julian Johnson, 36, a software entrepreneur who splits his time between London, New York and Nairobi. He owns a three-bedroom flat in Marylebone, central London, but stays free in his friends’ overseas homes; in return, he lets them stay at his place when they are in the capital.

“I end up not wanting stuff and not having lots of things. I can go for weeks with one carry-on. All you really need is a laptop, a toiletries bag, good shoes and jeans, and you’re sorted. If you run out of T-shirts, they’re not expensive to buy.”

Johnson has lived like this for four years, ever since he discovered the nomadic community at Burning Man: “It altered the course of my life.”He has a network of 20 friends who are welcome to stay at his flat in London. “I have someone in my flat now from Ibiza,” he tells me over the phone from Tulum, Mexico. “It’s almost like a rotating hotel. There’s an understanding that if I’m in Ibiza, I can stay with him.

“These are exceptionally creative people engaged in interesting projects, some of them non-profit. I travel for inspiration, for networking, for new ideas. Plus, you just get to see the world. It’s constantly exciting.”

Yet he admits that there’s a downside. “You meet people who are compelling, and start a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world. I’ve spent a lot of time conducting relationships on WhatsApp and Facebook, and sometimes I’m not sure how real that can be.”

Johnson grew up in Kenya and was sent to boarding school in South Africa from a young age: “I got used to boarding planes and saying goodbye to people I love”. When asked where he considers home, he’s not sure. “That’s the hardest question to answer. I don’t know if I have somewhere that I think of as home, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Home in my heart is Africa, where I grew up. Home as an adult, I don’t know.”

Johnson doesn’t want to be a nomad for ever: “Hopefully, in 10 years, I’ll have met someone, we’ll have kids, and I’ll move to Africa.”

Sander agrees that the nomadic lifestyle can be tough on relationships. “We meet so many people, we almost have too much choice,” she says. “Something really good might come around and people still wonder if there’s something better. But I never feel alone. I receive love and support from my friends.”

Like Johnson, she would like to settle down and have children eventually. “I cannot tell you where. It could be New York, LA, London, but it won’t be Vancouver. That’s my secondary home.”

Yet Vancouver is where her business is registered, and she must spend six months of the year in Canada for tax reasons. She doesn’t require a visa to travel to the USor Britain, as she operates primarily out of Canada, has international clients, is promoting global business and never stays too long. Annual health insurance covers her abroad as long as she is not outside Canada for more than a month.

Other practical matters: one of the co-sharers usually takes primary responsibility for the running of the flat; Sander is in charge of the Vancouver condo. Bills are paid by PayPal or Venmo. Homes must have high-speed broadband and a big table for work, meetings or dinner parties. If someone leaves the share, Sander picks up another flatmate from YesNomads.

Security is not an issue. “It’s a trust economy — not like Airbnb, where 15 people are coming through. It’s a closed network, but friends of friends are welcome.” There seem to be no petty squabbles among nomads. “We are professional, we’re business people,” Sander says. “I’ve never experienced any conflicts, besides someone leaving the balcony door open when it rained.”

“People don’t stay long enough to get annoyed with each other,” says Jo Vidler, 33, creative director of Secret Productions, which organises festivals. She has flatshares in London, Bangkok, LA and Tulum, where she works on the Day Zero festival. “People don’t get stuck in their ways and are respectful. And you’re out every night, anyway.”

Her east London flatshare — the one frequented by Sander — is a warehouse with three beds and a few mattresses. Her flatmate, Brooke, works in film and has flatshares in LA, Abu Dhabi and Dubai; other nomads also come to stay. “My house is transient,” Vidler says. “People have their own keys, and go to and fro. We have a secret agent who stays with us, an international correspondent, a festival organiser, artists. My family complain that they never get to see me, but they know I’m a free spirit.”

Bohemian their lifestyle may be, but global nomads are not cash-strapped Jack Kerouacs — Johnson estimates that he spends up to £10,000 a year on air fares. “You have to have a certain level of liquidity.” Yet Sander insists her lifestyle makes economic sense: it’s cheaper than hotels and renting several flats on your own, and she can write off some costs as business expenses. Being nomadic can be good for business, too: “Often people make time to have meetings with you because they know you’re only in town for a week.”

Does she ever get homesick? “When you get to this level of transience, homesickness becomes a craving for where you feel like being next. It’s a bit like Burning Man. Certain things don’t last for ever, it’s about being appreciative of what’s next. I’m in New York for 10 days now, and I’m really going to live it up.”

Pack your bags

To find a network, get involved in the tech, festival and entrepreneurial worlds: Burning Man (, Summit Series (, Thousand Network (, TED talks ( and SXSW ( are good starting points. Get advice from the nomad community at, or

Shuttling between New York and London? Check out For NY-LA,






This is an insightful look at how we respond to our surroundings and what it means to create / hold space for innovation.

Often what needs to happen is a simple as what Bruce Katz, the vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute and co-author of a paper titled "The Rise of Innovation Districts has to say in the story below. ""The most successful districts promote the "bump and mingle effect." Inside, the spaces are flexible and accommodate coworking and collaboration. Outside, the public spaces are animated and vibrant, whether it's from pop-ups or public programs or just a welcoming space."

Katz notes an idea that is close to my heart which is often minimized as a true innovation strategy - that "there is a larger cultural shift toward open innovation in play, companies aren't conducting research and development internally anymore, instead they're looking for ideas wherever they can get them.

However, he says calling a neighborhood " an innovation district" when it doesn't have the bona fides is an" idea virus."

When he analyzes an innovation district, he bases it on economic factors, not on surface characteristics. "This is a market dynamic, not a government program or a real estate gimmick," he says. "Labeling something as innovative doesn't necessarily make it so."

Personally, I have had numerous opportunities to work with the "best of the best" who seemingly "get it" but really...they don't. Needless to say, I found this to be a very refreshing story.







I'm so excited to share that Burning Man has been invited to the White House for the National Week of Making. We are the ultimate maker city and have incredible makers, architects, community builders, leaders, costumes and more... MOST importantly, we understand the value in PLAY and how it leads to innovation and learning.

Thank you to all the storytellers out there who are helping to make our impact felt. Let's show the "REAL WORLD" that we are a community that is pushing the boundaries of reality.......AND that together we can have a positive impact in the world.

PLAY ATELIER IS PROUD TO SEE THIS HAPPEN.... NOW, go make something this week and invite people to participate in the experience and fun.


Photo Credit to Megan Miller 

Photo Credit to Megan Miller 

Blockchain Global Impact Conference at Stanford University

The Blockchain - a foundational technology that helps make independent currencies possible without the traditional trust-arbitrating role of governments, is something that we NEVER thought we would be apart of. 

When we were asked to help socialize the concept and co-produce the March 23rd Conference at Stanford we quickly realized that the blockchain is one of the most relevent conversations of our time.  As unlikely as it may seem at first glance, some of the brightest minds in the world of bitcoin and digital currency are studying, identity credentials,  art, new forms of generative user engagement and of course  Burning Man as an example of an autonomous, self-organizing, values-based community. 

We invited thought leaders John Perry Barlow, Don Tapscott and Burning Man's Larry Harvey to join MIT's John Clippinger and our very own Re: Imagine Group's Peter Hirshbeg to provide insights for developers working on digital trust systems. 

10622750_10153730245808079_6406423963319046258_n (1).jpg

Play, renamed this conference "The Blockchain Global Impact Conference" organized the guest list, media and speakers of the well attended event. 

The Aspen Institute's discussion on autonomous zones

We wanted to create a wider discussion on some of the ideas discussed by the Burning Man community about culture, and thought that it would be appropriate to screen Steve Brown's Spark a Burning Man Story as a way to get the conversation going

For some time now the old boys club ( the Aspen Institute)  have been debating the meaning of life, time and existence. 

Burning Man which is just one of the largest demonstrations of curiosity is nothing new. The principles of the community and the inquisitive nature of the autonomous zone have been written about and studied since the beginning of time. 

Here’s a special look at the conversation we had. This is a password protected link try - sparklepony


World Economic Forum and Burning Man


In 2014 I was invited by some DLD Family to attend Davos on my 28th Birthday. Although I had plans to head to London that day, and a series of round table discussion, events and dinners to host in London with many important stakeholders (Burning Man and otherwise), I decided to go. 

Many of the groups that I had been engaging with were there and invited me to their respective gatherings, such as the Hub Culture dinner, Frog Creative, DLD, MIT Media LAB, Wall Street Journal, Boston Consulting, Skype, Yahoo and more. 

What I was surprised to learn, was how quickly the word got out that #BurningMan was in town. To be honest I introduced my self as a Community Engagement Strategist with Re:Imagine Group, but still caught on to the Burning Man connection. 

By Mid week I had been asked to sit down with a few WEF members and discuss civic initiatives from Davos to Detroit, and ended up having an impromptu gather with WEF/ Burners at the india restaurant with a free buffet called India Ada.

It was at this random meet-up that I was asked by participants to push the comparisons between the two organizations as a starting point for a larger conversation that needs to take place (according to this rare multi-network group) in the world.  

The meet up was everything it should have been. tThere was a Rabbi, a guy from Coachella, a Drone Building Master, Authors, Urbanists, Spiritual Leaders, Neurologists, Futurists, a guy from Adobe, many Strategists, and then some. 

As a result my friend Taro Gold wrote this story for both Huffington Post and the Voices of Burning Man Blog.

Today, one year later I am left to reflect on this experience and wonder what might be next?

Christiana Falcon came to Burning Man this year to explore how the civic community can be incorporated in to other initiatives. 



In the few days left before we embark on the unknown of  Black Rock Desert in little tribes from all corners of the globe, I can’t help but think of this year’s theme and my Great Grandfather as I pack my bags.

 What is a caravan? A caravan implies a long and dangerous journey taken by people, where there is often safety in numbers. It use to be a combined effort between several tribesmen getting together and going on a journey through the desert on camel back…..One man and a camel can not travel the desert….. therefore, it takes a village for this type of journey to take place.

 I’m very proud of a famous caravan of the past. This particular caravan was one of 80 camels that my Great Grandfather,  Rai Bahadur. Lal Singh arranged from the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas in western China in 1907 to Peshawar.

 R.B. Lal Singh (pictured below in a turban) was head of the caravan, responsible for the safety and security of the group and the official  map maker of the various routes of the Silk Road. He navigated the expedition lead by Sir Marc Aurel Stein across multiple deserts, over 22,000 foot high glacier peaks of the Himalayas, and down very narrow passages.


This caravan carried many precious artifacts from the caves of the  Temple of a Thousand Buddha’s  such as gold, jewelry and the world’s first known printed book the Darmand Sutras. It was a difficult 90 day  journey of loading and unloading with frequent mutinies by the laborers and caravan robbers. Today, those 80 camel loads of treasure can be found sitting unpacked in the basement of the British Museum in London…

 This years theme of caravansary, is rich in meaning for me, as it  refers to  life on the  road and the centers of cultural exchange  found along the way . This type of cross cultural thinking and community design is what I have built my life around, it’s what I think drives innovation and it’s what keeps my heart racing. To me, caravans of the past and caravansary is  very much like living in a far away village, where all the citizens  live together, are engaged and  are helping each other to create art as life…. Black Rock City is a sort of  pop- up caravansary and our work with the Burning Man Project looks at how this civic design is manifesting in modern cities.

For more information on this years theme, Please see Larry Harvey’s words here and our description of the Souk.

Jenn Sander x




At 1am I came home to my friend Jo Vidler’s house and the decision was made to go on an adventure. We would pile into a car and drive to Stonehenge to celebrate summer solstice. During this specific sunrise, the sun comes up right in the middle of the stones and visitors are allowed to come past the normally roped of site and interact with the monument. 

Built between 3000 BC to 2000 BC, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in the English county of Wiltshire. Made out of the remains of a ring of standing stones, it is a very special space.

Here’s what UNESCO has to say about it: 

Stonehenge, Avebury and their associated sites represent a masterpiece of human creative genius of the Neolithic age.

The site of Stonehenge and Avebury is the best-known ensemble circular megalithic characteristic of the Neolithic civilization in Britain. A number of satellite sites make it possible to better understand the more famous sites by situating them in a broader context.

Stonehenge, which was built in several distinct phases from 3100 to 1100 BC, is one of the most impressive megalithic monuments in the world on account of the sheer size of the menhirs, and especially the perfection of the plan, which is based upon a series of concentric circles, and also because of its height: from the third phase of construction on, large lintels were placed upon the vertical blocks, thereby creating a type of bonded entablature. For the constructions two different materials were used: irregular sandstone blocks known as sarsens, quarried in a plain near Salisbury and bluestones quarried about 200 km away in Pembroke County, Wales. An avenue with a bend in it leads to and away from the exterior circle.

Although the ritual function of the monument is not known in detail, the cosmic references of its structure appear to be essential. The old theory that the site was a sanctuary for worship of the Sun, although not the subject of unanimous agreement among prehistorians, is nevertheless illustrated by the yearly Midsummer Day ceremony during which there is a folkloric procession of bards and druids at Stonehenge.

Avebury (about 30 km to the north), although not so well known as Stonehenge, is nevertheless Europe’s largest circular megalithic ensemble. Its exterior circle comprises some 100 menhirs. In all, 180 standing stones were put into place before the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, as demonstrated by abundant ceramic samples found on the site. There are four avenues (of which only the southern one, West Kennet Avenue, is still lined with megaliths) leading to the four cardinal points of the ‘sanctuary’.


Not far from Avebury, among a several satellite sites, are to be found Silbury Hill, where Europe’s largest known barrow of prehistoric times is located, as well as Windmill Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, and Overton Hill.



2 hours outside Tel Aviv, the Israeli Burning Man community (many who have never been to Burning Man), arts, technology and start-up community came together for their first ever full week event in the desert.

This was my first time attending a regional event. I especially wanted to go to this one to identify points of transition between creative cities and transitional years of Burning Man culture growth and development internationally.

Additionally, some of my tech friends such as Daniel Perguine from BillGuard built theme camps at the inaugural Genesis themed event. 

I look at Burning Man as a pop-up-city and  my friend / colleague Peter Hirshberg and I have done a lot of research on how Burning Man culture manifests into the mainstream. Moreover, Peter and I were just on a panel  at DLD NYC a few weeks prior to Mid burn where Gideon Schmerling compared Tel Aviv to Burning Man. He said that it is a kind of startup city: People came to the desert a hundred years ago and wanted to create a utopian city, there is a creative class that is still there. All of this made it clear that this would be the most relevant regional event forme to explore first. 

Upon arriving at Mid Burn we discovered that they had to change locations only 3 days prior to the start of the event, however they still some how managed to come across as if they had been building Mid burn for weeks. 

There was a a very strong sense of pride among the largely virgin city that seemed like there was no selfish group or leader, they were all apart of this right of passage. There was arts and crafts, many children a large participatory spirit and tones of gifting. 

CEO and founder of Burning Man Regional Network, Marian Goodell had the opportunity to make it down to the event as well which was a really proud moment. We were able to spend time with many new leaders, artists and participants. 

I envision Mid burn becoming a very international and European alternative to Black Rock City very soon. There were many people from Africa Burn there as well as from the Uk and Germany. Since Tel Aviv is becoming such a hot spot for start-ups and creative industries, I believe that this organic offshoot of Burning Man will become a very popular alternative to Black Rock City very quickly. Given that it’s only a hour drive from Tel Aviv also helps. 

There is nothing I love more than bringing together special people. I often curate the theme of the food but let my guests come and cook and prepare chez moi. This enhances their experience and flavours the interactions of the evening. I try and create a home atmosphere that allows for comfort. Sometimes I even leave things lying around to create an environment of just the right mix of intrigue, casualness and conversation. 

Creative Cities and the growth of the Burning Man Project

This week I was in NYC with my colleagues Meghan Rutigliano and Iris Yee. As you can see by the pictures below, we had nothing short of a fabulous time. This casual trip marked the first time that I have ever traveled and collaborated with the Regionals team where they were categorically apart of The Burning Man project (from an internal operations stand point). Megs and Iris conducted a series of Interviews to select the new NYC Burning Man Regional contacts, and I was there to listen, learn and speak to what the project hopes to accomplish. 

This is a really exciting transition for us. I believe that community building is best facilitated through listening to the desires and the needs of the key stakeholder groups, linked to a big idea. This week we got to cross-pollinate our hopes with those of the new NYC BM leadership. 

Key take aways included: 

NYC needs a place for all it’s tribes, camps, arts collectives and active groups to come together. The burner run event Gratitude offers a great space for this, but still is a somewhat curated event although it has no branded content or sponsorship. NYC has so much content and activity that everything flavoured ‘burner’ ranges from sponsored events to giant fundraisers, it often makes it hard to tell what is what. I think it would be great if there was a platform for all those groups to come together, collaborate and create a larger impact together. 


Hopefully with clear messaging and good strong leadership we are getting a few steps closer to this vision. 


This Trip to NYC also marked mine and Peter Hirshberg’s first time on a panel together. As participants of the inaugural DLD NYC conference, we were both asked ( at the last minute) to be on a creative cities panel.


You can find the video on the DLD site, I’m not going to post it here :) 

Yossi Vardi ( featured below) one of the early investors in ICQ and father of the DLD community hosts many events year round. Next up for me is Tel Aviv’s regional Burning Man event  Mid Burn festival coupled with one of Yossi’s events in the city. 


Although chaotic, it was a lot of fun. 


Last but not least, I spent all the time IN-BETWEEN with my dear friend Dr Gino Yu (featured in the middle) Gino is dedicated to ‘waking people up’ and helping them to realize that the past is just a story controlled by the mind. There will be MUCH more to come on this in the Near future. Gino and I have a special plan to create an event at Davos next year that I can’t wait to share. Oh yeah… and we went to the Robot Heart party. 

Wok +Wine & THNK Leadership University Event TED Vancouver, 2014

Wok+Wine is the world’s most effective serendipity machine.  In other words, Wok+Wine helps you to find the people you didn’t know you were looking for.  This dynamic global dinner series is designed to help people open up their minds (and futures) to a world of opportunity. 

We launched the Vancouver Wok + Wine chapter in 2013 and supported the brand in the UK. In 2014, we created a bespoke Wok+Wine experience in collaboration with THNK Leadership University for the first TED Vancouver Conference. 

This event was designed to help THNK engage with supporters, participants and investors for their Vancouver Chapter. This event was hosted and designed by Play Atelier with guest list curation by Jenn Sander. 

Screen-Shot-2014-03-24-at-9.42.17-PM (1).png

TEDxLondon - The Future We Make, 2010

We lunched and curated TEDxLondon in 2010. For this event, TEDxLondon teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to mark the 10th Anniversary of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

TEDxLondon The Future We Make, was the official satellite event to TEDxChange New York, exploring global issues such as poverty, child mortality and disease with some of the UK's top thinkers, scientists and innovators.

Convened by Melinda French Gates and featuring talks by some of the world's most inspired thinkers and doers, TEDxChange looked at what changes have taken place in the last decade, and what more needs to be done to ensure the health and well-being of future generations.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.