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History of The Briarpatch Network - © 1983, 2006

Compiled from archives by a committee of members.

Drilling for Information
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The Briarpatch was founded in Menlo Park in 1974. Fathered by Dick Raymond of the Portola Institute and mothered by Gurney Norman, author of "Divine Rights Trip" in The Last Whole Earth Catalogue, the phenomenon of mutual support for right livelihood and simple living was an idea whose time had come.

Folks involved in the extended family/community that grew up around the Whole Earth Catalogue formed various businesses including a coop food market, a woman-owned auto repair store, and several others. Gurney Norman put together the first Briarpatch Review using Whole Earth's layout studio. In it he described this new form of socially conscious, mutual self-support for businesses.

Former banker Michael Phillips was a key organizer of the Briarpatch and his efforts were principally responsible for the extended life of the community during the first decade following its founding. He introduced Dick Raymond to CPA Elliot Buchdrucker, insurance broker Werner Hebenstreit, and lawyer Tom Silk and the five of them together raised enough money to hire the first Briarpatch coordinator Andy (Bahauddin) Alpine, who later became the publisher of Common Ground and Specialty Travel Index. Phillips continued to recruit consultants and coordinators until his withdrawal from active involvement in the late 1980s. Up until that time, he traveled to many communities to assist them in starting their own Briarpatches and even got the Briarpatch principles introduced into the World Bank.

In the beginning, Phillips and Alpine started out using a small office on San Francisco's Pier 40 to hold free consulting sessions every Wednesday. To make ends meet, they sublet space to Margo St. James for her COYOTE offices (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics—working for the decriminalization of prostitution). Very soon, so many people were coming for the advice sessions that Phillips asked Dick, Elliot, Werner and Tom to help out.

From 1974 to the present day the Briarpatch has seen more than 1,000 people pass through it's membership roles.

In the Bay Area there have also been several satellite networks in Marin and Sonoma counties, in the East Bay and on the Peninsula.

Coordinators have included:

We have also been in touch with networks offering similar support structures to the Briarpatch:


In 1974 Gurney Norman published the first compilation of community stories entitled The Briarpatch Review.

An ever evolving team of Network memebers launched the next effort soon thereafter and published eleven more issues in all.The first eight issues were published as a book compilation by New Glide/Reed in 1978 entitled The Briarpatch Book: Experiences in Right Livelihood and Simple Living from the Briarpatch Community