Building A Civil Society

(or any social organization)
Bill Clearlake

I've worked in the Burning Man organization as a Senior Ranger, Ranger Shift Commander, Medical Ranger, Medical Liaison, and Law Enforcement Liaison Trainee. Through this experience, I've learned much of what's involved in creating a civilization from scratch and building a city (actually a small nation) literally from the ground up.

    Some things I've learned:

  1. Have a positive vision of what you want.
    It's easy to state what you don't want, but if you want to get people to commit themselves to something, it has to be a positive thing. If you have a positive idea of what you want to create, many of your current opponents will be drawn to support it. Many of those will become assets and even allies.

  2. Make it an adventure.
    Emphasize that you're doing something new and difficult. Challenge tends to bring out the best in people.

  3. Be inclusive.
    Most people are untapped resources. They long to contribute all of who they are and much of what they have. Give everyone that opportunity. Every person who is rejected is a long list of resources the organization will not have access to.

  4. Make everyone an insider.
    While every organization has to have layers of management, share as much information as possible with the folks down the line. Someone on a "lower rung" might have just the resource or answer the organization needs. It also make everyone a partner in the venture.

  5. Reward those who do the most.
    This is a failing of most organizations I've seen. They tend to promote the ones who kiss the most butt. Take a look at the sorry state of today's business climate and tell me that's a successful formula. Let people grow in the organization according to their level of contribution. Others will see that their hard work will get them noticed.

  6. Say, "Thank you."
    Thank people for every little thing they do. They'll want to do more.

  7. Retask people who aren't working out.
    Find something they are suited for. Maybe delivering brochures is a better choice for that person than running the office.

  8. Let people go.
    Sometimes people burn out or have other plans or issues. Don't blink if someone doesn't show up for their (volunteer) job. Pull in other resources.

  9. Let people return.
    Find out what new abilities they've gained and put them to work.

  10. Make it fun.
    Keep a relaxed atmosphere. Let people be themselves. Each person's contribution is a gift. Work should be a party -- a celebration.

    Copyright © 2003. Used with author's permission.

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