A Sampling

Work out your own salvation with diligence.

Do your best.

– The Buddha

Education in Every Transaction

Because we encourage learning and share a love of it, the Briarpatch has always been rich with learning opportunities, alternative education projects, and new ways to make learning more interesting and, above all, fun.

Long before the widespread recommendations for mandatory website “content” and learning from the lessons reported in Transaction-Based Economics many Briarpatch businesses began including an education component in their public-facing activities.

A good example would be the workshops in organic gardening, home canning, drip irrigation, and hydroponics offered by the Living Lightly, retail store.

Other members have done the same and many include video or printed information and tutorials in collateral marketing materials associated with specific products or product lines, usually downloadable from their website.

One Briar business, The Basic Brown Bear Factory, that used to be up on Potrero Hill, offered regular workshops for families to custom design their own Teddy Bears that they could then adopt and take home at the end of the workshop.

Formal Schools

Many formal schools were organized across time. A few examples include the following:

Common Good School

Co-founded in 1980 by Michael Phillips, Fran Peavey, and a host of other community organizers, Common Good School’s purpose was to provide training for the next generation of community organizers and advanced training for those with some experience already.

Lectures, classes, and workshops were led by organizers with many years of experience.

(See also Michael Phillips’ “History of the Common Good Association and School.”)

Common Good Association
First gathering of the Common Good School co-founders.

Uncommon Courtesy School

In 1982, Stewart Brand of “Whole Earth” fame founded Uncommon Courtesy: School of Compassionate Skills.

Offering classes on such subjects as:

  • Creative Philanthropy
  • Business as Service
  • Street Saint Skills

That same year, Stewart organized the first “Business as Service” course using a “learning expedition” delivery format.

Terry Dobson, Aikido Sensei and instructor of "Street Saint Skills" at the Uncommon Courtesy School
Terry Dobson, Aikido sensei and instructor of "Street Saint Skills" at the Uncommon Courtesy School

With Paul Hawken (Growing a Business) and Michael Phillips (Seven Laws of Money) as fellow faculty, they loaded participants into a bus and spent two days visiting exemplary Briarpatch businesses.

Uncommon Courtesy School ran courses through 1984.

Noren Institute

Also in 1982, expanding on the “learning expedition” idea, Michael Phillips recruited Andora Freeman, Shali Parsons, and Claude Whitmyer to be founding partners in The Noren Institute.

Noren was the first Briarpatch business school, or maybe “unschool” would better describe it. Yes we taught courses, but in a context of visiting exemplar businesses and learning from owners-as-teachers. From this two-way street, we significantly grew our knowledge base of strategies and tactics for Briarpatch style success.

Learn more about Noren Institute.

Japanese Noren
Japanese Noren
Noren/Briarpatch office over Blooms on 18th Street
Noren/Briarpatch office over Bloom's Saloon on 18th Street, San Francisco

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center

Claudia Viek

In 1985, friend of the Briarpatch Claudia Viek was the founding executive director of the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco. Viek is a pioneer in both the micro-enterprise and business incubation fields in California.

Under Claudia’s guidance, Renaissance launched Business Planning classes to help very low-to-moderate-income women and men start and grow their own small businesses. Renaissance attracted many talented staff and students and grew steadily adding more advanced courses to meet demand.

Claudia Viek
Claudia Viek

Many Briars and friends have benefitted from the learning and support opportunities offered by Renaissance.

In 1990, Renaissance launched the first nonprofit small business incubator in Northern California, housing five businesses.

In 1995, a Financing Resource Center was added to provide technical assistance and loan packaging services to help entrepreneurs who were otherwise unable to access traditional sources of capital.

In 1997, Renaissance purchased its own building at 275 Fifth Street, San Francisco and expanded Incubator services to 14 emerging businesses.

In 1999, Claudia left to become CEO of CAMEO, the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity.


Paul Terry

Almost from the beginning, Briar Paul Terry joined Claudia Viek’s team and was the principal consultant, instructional designer, and instructor for the business training programs. He also recruited Briar Claude Whitmyer as an instructor and consultant.

In 1995, for his work at Renaissance, he received the Inc. Magazine/Kaufman Foundation award for “Outstanding Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year.”

Renaissance helped to launch more than a thousand small businesses in the first decade of its existence.

Br’er Claude taught at Renaissance for 12 years. Paul continues to have a role there today.

Paul Terry
Paul Terry

Renaissance Today

Sharon Miller

Though no longer as closely affiliated with Briarpatch as in the past, Renaissance continues as an award-winning non-profit offering training, financing, and business incubation.

Under the direction of CEO Sharon Miller since 1999, Renaissance’s tradition of excellence continues today.

Miller is responsible for expanding Renaissance into, four local service centers and for creating a special program for women entrepreneurs as an aid in overcoming the many challenges unique to women in business.

Sharon Miller
Sharon Miller

Briarpatch continues to refer women, minorities, and early-stage businesses to Renaissance for the excellence of their training and the strength of their small business support.

Briarpatch in Higher Ed

New College of California

New College of California In the mid to late 1980s, Briars Claude Whitmyer and Paul Terry were recruited by Briar Martin Hamilton, president of New College of California, to develop a suite of business-related courses for the college’s continuing education offerings. Claude was also asked to develop a “Learning Resource Center” that offered public job skills workshops and courses available to local residents in both English and Spanish, as well as computer training for faculty and staff.

Sadly, suffering financial challenges New College closed in 2008, after nearly 40 years. [ Take a look at New College as a case application of the Laws of Money. ]

California Institute of Integral Studies

California Institute of Integral StudiesMembers and friends of Briarpatch have had loose connections with California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) throughout its history.

CIIS joined Briarpatch in the 1980s, under direction of then President John Broomfield, seeking advice during one of its cyclical fiscal challenges.

Originally founded by Frederic Spiegelberg, Alan Watts, and Haridas Chaudhuri as the American Academy of Asian Studies, CIIS has been primarily a graduate school focusing on Asian philosophy and religion. It’s longest-running graduate programs include “East/West Psychology” and “Philosophy and Religion” but it has also grown a handful of graduate degrees in sub-specialties including anthropology, human sexuality, transpersonal psychology, women’s spirituality, and creative writing.

At one point, CIIS had also developed a cluster of health-related programs including somatic and counseling psychology and traditional Chinese medicine.

Master of Arts in Business (MAB) at CIIS

From 1993 through 1997, Briarpatch members were invited to join an experiment in creating a graduate business program that could feel at home under the umbrella of “integral studies.” Thus the Master of Arts in Business (MAB) program was born.

The overriding theme of the program was “mastering the art of business.” The central organizing principle of this experiment was to create a program to pass along Briarpatch proven strategies of “right livelihood” and “simple living” as they pertained to commerce. Examples of such strategies, new to traditional business programs, included:

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Muddling toward frugality
  • Triple-bottom-line accounting
  • Participatory decision making

Briarpatch coordinator Claude Whitmyer agreed to serve as founding program director. Whitmyer recruited nearly 40 members and friends of the Briarpatch community to join the small advisory group that had been planning the program for more than a year. Many of these new volunteers also participated as guest instructors and adjunct faculty. The program filled three cohorts of eager adventurers, primarily through positive word-of-mouth.

This highly creative program in “mastering the art of business” graduated nearly three dozen M.A. degree students before an institution-wide fiscal crisis forced its closure.

Those first 30 plus MAB graduates went on to find their own right livelihoods in positions ranging from non-profit management to big eight consulting firms as well as launching a host of small businesses and other creative and cause-based projects.

One graduate became director of the Social Venture Network. Another, a regular producer of Bioneers events. One started an organic farm, another a solar energy company. A few returned to their existing entrepreneurial ventures including a landscape design business and a tourist-oriented retail store. One joined a video production company in southern California, another took over management of her family restaurant.

Other Briarpatch Schools

Other unique schools in the Briarpatch have included:

Planet Drum Foundation

Planet Drum Foundation was founded in San Francisco, CA in 1973 by revolutionary thinker, activist, and long-time Briar Peter Berg.

The Planet Drum team launched the development of the concept of the bioregion—the regions of the planet divided up by natural boundaries of watersheds, plant/animal communities, and other geological and ecological parameters.

From their initial work, the bioregionalism movement was launched.

Logo Planet Drum Foundation
Peter Berg

Planet Drum took a grassroots approach to ecology and emphasized sustainability, community self-determination, and regional self-reliance. From this came the idea of buying locally to support local businesses and keep money in the local economy.

Today, Planet Drum works through its projects, publications, speakers, and workshops to help start new bioregional groups and encourage local organizations and individuals to find sustainable ways to live within the natural confines of bioregions.

Their central organizing principle is that people who know and care about the places where they live will work to maintain and restore them.

Two Owner-Builder Schools

Berkeley Owner/Builder Center & Integral Urban House

Berkeley Owner/Builder Center was launched by Helga and Bill Olkowski in 1976. They developed a demonstration classroom known as “the Integral Urban House.” It was one of the earliest “green” buildings in the U.S. It included a composting toilet, greywater system, demonstration garden, and tilapia tank, presaging the popularizing of sustainable urban living and permaculture in the city.

The Center offered owner/builder classes in the Bay Area for many years.

Cover Integral Urgan House

Thousand Islands Institute, Picton, Ontario

Thousand Islands Institute was founded by environmental artist Harry Pasternak. Pasternak offered owner-builder courses, regular building courses and a course in how to start your own construction business. Harry was also an alumni of Noren Institute and sponsored a course delivered in Ontario by Salli Rasberry and Claude Whitmyer on “The Knack of Starting Your Own Business.”

Harry Pasternak
Harry Pasternak

Two Therapist Internship Programs

Clement Street Counseling Center

Therapist Yvonne Jaffe started the Clement Street Counseling Center Therapist Training Programs to offer therapy internships and credential supervision. With help from Briarpatch consultants, the Center was sold to California Institute of Integral Studies in 1995 to act as a clinic for their Psy.D. internship program.

Marina Counseling Center

Therapist and organizational consultant Ann Maiden founded the Marina Counseling Center to offer therapy internships and credential supervision.

Two Schools for Traditional Japanese Arts

American School of Traditional japanese Arts

Modeled on the famous Oomoto seminar in Japan, the American School was founded in 1987 by seminar alumni Liz Kenner and Linda Richardson. The School offered tea ceremony, ceramics, Kyogen comic theater, calligraphy and ink painting, as well as the martial art Shintaido.


A school for Japanese Tea Ceremony managed by Briar Christie Bartlett. A branch of the Japanese school by the same name.

Several Unique Massage Schools

The Amma Institute

Certification for Traditional Japanese Massage

Amma Institute was founded in San Francisco by Takashi Nakamura. In 1982, Nakamura returned to Japan and operation of the institute was assumed by Briar David Palmer.

The Amma Institute was the first school in the United States exclusively devoted to traditional Japanese massage.

TouchPro International

TouchPro International Chair Massage

Certification for Chair Massage – In San Francisco

TouchPro was founded by Briar David Palmer following his Directorship of the Amma Institute.

Palmer is widely credited with invention of the modern massage chair as we know it. It was first offered for sale to the public through an agreement with Briar member Living Earth Crafts, a manufacturer of quality massage tables.

David Palmer
David Palmer

In 1997 David was honored by the American Massage Therapy Association with the President’s Award for his contribution to the massage profession.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame.

David has written extensively about Chair Massage and the massage industry in general. His newsletter, The Bodywork Entrepreneur, presaged the publication of his book by the same name that was used as a standard business text in bodywork schools throughout the 1990’s.

He also authored Marketing Chair Massage, which is considered essential for Chair Massage practitioners.

Touch Pro Chair Massage

McKinnon School of Massage

Western traditions of massage for licensure as Massage Therapist – In Oakland. Founded by Briar Judith McKinnon who was also active in establishing the State of California Board of Examiners for Massage Therapy.

New Age School of Massage

Western traditions of massage for licensure as Massage Therapist – Founded in Sebastapol by Briar Katherine Osterbye.

Several Other Specialty Schools

Cheng Hsin Workshops

Tai chi, transformational work.

Palo Alto Computer Learning Center

Where Steve Jobs met Steve Wozniak.

San Francisco Zen Center

Soto zen training.

Avenue Ballroom

Ballroom dance school founded by Joel Koosed who also created the San Francisco Roommate Referral Service.

Bess Bair Tap Dance Center

Elaine Badgley/Arnoux’s EBA School of Art

Focal Point Stress Workshops

Other Formal Schools

There were other formal schools too, alternatives to pre-school, primary, middle-school, and high-school. Names and descriptions will be added here as time permits.

Rivendell School

“Private, non-profit – 5 to 14 years. Students, staff, and parents try to learn to center themselves and yet reach out towards others. Student/Teacher ratio: 10/1. Meet in a big partitioned area, homes, and outdoors. Follow the public school calendar.”

Listing excerpted from A Guide to Alternative Education in the Bay Area, Second Edition, by Leigh McCausland and Gwendolyn Rockbottom. Published by Bay Area Center for Alternative Education, 1972 (73 pages).

Briarpatch Coordinator Charles Albert Parson (Shali)’s son attended Rivendell in the late 70s and early 80s and Shali served on its board at that time.