Ben Bjostad

What committees do you want to work with?

Communications/Tech Ops, Home, Conduct, Events

What burns have you been to?

Alchemy, Euphoria, Transformus, To The Moon, Burning Man

Why do you want to be a board member?

See “what would you like to contribute” answer

If elected to the board, what will your priorities be?

Ensuring that the event is aligned with the principles, values, and ethos of our community and balancing that with the practical necessities of managing an organization of this size.

What is your long-term vision for the future of Flashpoint Artists Initiative?

We throw burns. I'd like us to maintain our current vision, while staying true to our principles and community ethos.

What would you most like to contribute as part of the FAI BOD?

I respect that most members of the current BOD are making the best decisions they can for the org. But some recent decisions have led me to believe that the BOD is in need of an institutional conscience. We cannot call ourselves a burn if we sacrifice our ethics for expediency.

FAI is an organization that has been through a lot in the last year. We are organizationally exhausted. And that's led to an environment where, despite good intentions, org response to criticism is suboptimal and decisions are often made based on the path of least resistance, not the path of what's right.

I believe​ that the org needs at least one person, otherwise qualified to sit on the board, whose primary personal motivation for serving on the board is to remind the board that longevity of the event and ease of producing the event have to be balanced against the ethos of the event. Yes, sometimes that decision has to be made based on practicality. That's why we call it making the sausage. But I believe FAI's decision-making pendulum has swung too far toward practicality. I believe we need to continually reflect and revisit on whether, in the process of making the sausage, we're staying as true to our principles and our shared and publicly expressed values as possible. In short, I think the BOD desperately needs a conscience.

I have a reputation for being passionate sometimes to the point of divisiveness about issues, and I don't deny that I've earned that reputation. But while I accept that the BOD's priorities have to lean towards the practical, there's no point in preserving the org and the event if we drift too far away from the principles that define what we claim to be. I commit to, should I be elected and choose to serve, cooperating with other board members, serving my term, and maintaining a collegial and rational discourse even though my rationale for serving the community in this manner will likely lead to me often approaching issues from a different perspective than others.

I am absolutely willing to make the sausage. There's too much work to be done for a board slot to be filled by someone who isnt committed to doing the full spectrum of work necessary. I am aware that calls have to be made that will sometimes clash with my own interpretation of those principles. But even though we're all volunteers, by agreeing to serve the community, we have a responsibility to make decisions based not only on what's best for the org's longevity, or what's easiest for the leadership of the org, but on what's right for the members of the community this org serves.

Please tell us about the experience (professional, burn world, or otherwise) that you can contribute to the FAI BOD.

Experienced communications professional. Recent experience with nonprofit administration and communications. Experienced grant and proposal writer.

Knowledgeable about service dogs.

Capable of controlling my ego in order to serve the community.

What roles have you served in at Alchemy and/or Euphoria? In leadership positions at other burns?

To The Moon - Safety Dept lead, ELT, Ranger lead

Alchemy and Euphoria - Ranger co-lead, volunteer coordinator, First Aid lead, Ranger shift lead, BOD communications committee member

Please describe your leadership style and experience (in detail).

Passionate, service-based leadership. My leadership resume, for better or worse, is pretty much an open book to the ga burn community.

Please describe a time you experienced a team conflict and the steps you took to peacefully resolve it (in detail).

To the moon 2017 - one of the team leads I worked closely with as a department lead turned out to be, on-site, combative, defensive, and completely unprepared for her role. It became apparent that because I had previously been a volunteer for a team she led at a previous burn when I was not yet experienced in leadership, she was unable or unwilling to work with me to correct her teams issues. In order to facilitate a smooth event, I passed on de facto supervision of her team to another event lead to remove the personality conflict. While that was ultimately unsuccessful as she was no more cooperative with any other member of event leadership than she was with me, it was a decision I would make again as it gave her the opportunity to fix her teams issues rather than just being removed as team lead, even though that was the final decision of the event leadership after her failure to fulfill the basic responsibilities of her position.

Despite the lack of success, it's an example I'm proud of. I accepted that I couldn't fix the issue, and put my own ego to the side in order to give her a chance to fix the issues under the guidance of others. She didn't do so, but it was still an educational situation for me and a moment of growth.

(Note: details of this incident have been changed slightly in order to protect the privacy of the involved individuals)

Are you ready to learn how the sausage gets made?

I already know.

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