Berkeley Parents Network is a nonprofit online forum for parents who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Members share advice with other parents about all sorts of topics including parenting, schools, health, career, relationships, travel, and local businesses and services. Parents can look for and recommend childcare, schools, classes, and camps, buy and sell household items on the Marketplace forum, and find out about local activities and community events. BPN's mission is to give parents an easy way to help, inform, and support each other in an environment without advertising or editorial point of view.
BPN was started in 1993 by a grad student at UC Berkeley as a mailing list for other student parents. Since then, it has grown by word of mouth to more than 24,000 subscribers in 2018, who live all over the Bay Area. BPN publishes 5 weekly digests of website posts and operates a popular website containing more than 8,000 different advice topics. BPN has always been free for parents, is run by parent volunteers, and does not accept advertising.
In 2014, BPN became a 501(c)(3) non-profit and embarked on a project to ensure its long-term sustainability by creating paid Community Subscriptions for schools, childcare providers, and other local kid-related businesses and organization. These subscriptions allow BPN to pay for technical and administrative services as well as a director, while keeping subscriptions free for parents. You can read more about these paid subscriptions here: About BPN Community Subscriptions
The Berkeley Parents Network was started in 1993 by Ginger Ogle, then a Computer Science graduate student at UC Berkeley and the mother of 2 school-aged children. The list was originally for student parents in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). We were working on a proposal for parental and maternity leave for EECS grad student parents and we used the mailing list to "rally the forces". The EECS faculty accepted our proposal and we subsequently used the list to get an office for parents in Soda Hall, along with diaper changing tables in the men's and women's restrooms. Over the years, the list grew, most messages were beyond the scope of just the EECS department, so in 1995 we opened it up to all UC Berkeley campus parents. The list that started with 14 graduate students reached 250 members in March 1996 and doubled to 500 members in March 1997. By 1998 it had doubled again to reach 1000 members. In that year, we opened the list to community members as the result of a collaboration with the Neighborhood Moms organization (later called Neighborhood Parents Network). In 1999, the newsletter was split into four parts to make it more manageable. Also in that year, a separate list for parents of teens was started by Sally Nasman, whose children attended King Middle School and Berkeley High School. Membership reached the 2,000 mark in 2000, and by the end of 2001 we had doubled to 4,000. The end of 2003 found our membership nearly doubled again, at 7,600. We reached 10,000 members in the Fall of 2004. BPN continues to grow at the rate of 15-20 new subscribers each day. Although new subscribers continue to tell us they hear about BPN by word of mouth, today most people are finding us through our website after doing a search for a particular topic.