Gifting Circle at Burning Man HQ

[Originally posted on]

On Thursday, November 15th, I attended the Gift Circle workshop at Burning Man Headquarters.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had never been to a gifting circle before and I didn’t even really know what it was. I assumed it had to do with the Burning Man ethos of a gift society (as opposed to bartering, which is what most people think it is). I thought it was going to be a lecture, highlighting cultures in which gifting is popular, but was pleasantly surprised by what it actually was.

They had each participant partner with someone they didn’t know to discuss a myriad of universal human needs. It was interesting to get this anthropological perspective from someone I didn’t know. We focused primarily on discussing needs and gifts.

We were then asked to say what we needed from someone else. Some were more physical and tangible, such as needing help getting a bike fixed or cleaning a garage. Some were more abstract, such as getting advice with family relations or seeking project collaboration. Even though most people just met, they really opened up which made it a great environment to connect in.

Once this phase concluded, everyone went around and announced what they could contribute to the group. I discovered the many talents of the participants and that these people were incredibly generous in what they were willing to offer. Furthermore, it was insightful to see that most people wanted to offer services or teach a skill rather than offer an item like a book or material object.

The follow-up of actually giving and/or receiving the gifts is the most important part, which is why this activity is typically done on a regular basis. The social atmosphere and workshop facilitators make it extremely easy to do so by sharing everyone’s email and creating a comfortable environment. It was definitely a great event and I would recommend it to anyone. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next collaborator for that project of yours or your future mentor!


One Response to “Gifting Circle at Burning Man HQ”
  1. I love all the ways we can gift off-playa as well as on. I’ve been using an online gifting platform called Yerdle. It’s a free service where people gift items to others in their communities. They also have a concept called parties so groups of people who may not be connected visa Facebook can also gift with each other. Recently they added a ‘party’ for the burner community. If you use the link to the Burning Man ‘party’ and click to join once you’re logged in, fellow burners become part of your community, so you see what they’re gifting and you can gift items to them. It’s great for gifting things you no longer need (but another burner might love). I hope this will help us do more to reuse/recycle and extend the spirit of gifting beyond the playa.


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