2004 Annual Appeal
Dear Friend of CPSR,
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility needs your support.
These are difficult times for people who believe in a free and open information society. In the United States, the Bush Administration remains in office and looks primed to carry on with its regressive agenda on information and communication technology (ICT) issues. We can look forward to four more years of all the wrong moves---more industry concentration, surveillance, government secrecy, overly expansive intellectual property laws, limitations on open access, frequency spectrum mismanagement, media censorship, Internet misgovernance, outsourcing, inattention to the needs of low-income communities, and on and on and on. We can even expect the revision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, this time with Congressional friends of citizen empowerment and consumers' rights even more marginalized from the inner circles of decision making. And things do not look much better at the global level, where the administration and many of its key counterparts abroad are pursuing an essentially parallel policy agenda through bilateral negotiations and multilateral institutions.
Now more than ever, we need vibrant local, national and global public interest communities that can push back against the tide. We need civil society organizations (CSOs) that have the technical expertise to speak authoritatively about the risks and benefits of ICT; the heart to articulate a compelling vision of fair, democratic, and open information society; and the organizational capacity and citizen support to promote such a vision, both in the United States and around the world. Luckily, there are quite a few dedicated CSOs out there fighting the good fight against very difficult odds. In many cases, these are relatively small, professional staff-based organizations that are able to make a difference by writing reports, filing lawsuits, drafting regulatory and legislative provisions, and generally playing the insider game in Washington D.C. and other capitals. Just as often, they are specialized and work intensively on one or a few issue key areas.
CPSR fills a different and entirely complementary niche. We are a
membership organization with about 1,000 people in over two dozen
countries. And we do not limit ourselves to one or a few issues; we can
and do take on a variety of topics in accordance with members'
interests. Together, these two attributes mean that we provide an open
platform from which anyone who shares our ideals enough to participate
in CPSR structures can connect with like-minded colleagues, form
special interest groups, launch or join initiatives and so forth on any
number of ICT issues. And our grass-roots membership, expertise, and
broad mandate makes us an attractive partner for other CSOs launching
campaigns at the local, national, and global levels.
While 2004 has been a busy and challenging year for CPSR, in this
brief letter I will not go through a recitation of our past
programmatic activities in the United States and abroad. (These items
have been covered in The CPSR
Compilers .) Nor can I run through an overview of the various
intra-organizational hurdles we have had to leap before or since the
Board of Directors asked me to step in as President in late August;
that must await another time. Instead, let me look forward, and mention
just a few of our current and pending initiatives that make me
optimistic about CPSR's prospects.
- By far our most important and demanding initiative at present is the launching of the new website. The goals of the new site are to enable member participation in our online presence and engage prospective members and others interested in CPSR's work. The site is now run with a standards compliant, open source content management system (CMS). It includes a new design, new dynamic features, a Spanish language section, etc. The archived version of the old site is also available, pending the transfer of all its content. The CMS will allow members to submit content for the Issues and Chapters folders, News, or Events; use forums to interact; and maintain their own home pages. We very much hope that CPSR members will volunteer to help maintain and add new content to the site, for which the board and staff will have overall managerial responsibility. Within the coming weeks, CPSR will send information on how to apply for a user account. In the meantime, if you would like to participate or help out, please contact CPSR. Training on use of the system will be available for volunteer content managers and members who want to post their homepage within the next month. By the way, in its first full month of activity, the new site's home page has generated nearly 700,000 hits from over 23,000 unique visitors!
- We will make a concerted effort to expand our outreach to members and involve them---in particular by using the functionalities of the new site as a vehicle---in programmatic and organizational activities.
- We will relaunch and expand our Publications program. This will
include the monthly Compiler, the CPSR Journal (our first issue in
years will be released in the next weeks), and- depending on member
interest---perhaps a Working Paper series and an Issue Brief
- We will reconstitute the Advisory Board (this time including more CPSR members than unaffiliated experts) in order to provide the Board of Directors with an additional source of valuable advice.
- We will expand our collaborations with other CSOs in US and global policy processes. In the latter context, we will in particular continue to work in coalitions focusing on the World Summit on the Information Society, Internet governance, and the democratization of relevant international institutions.
In short, CPSR is turning a corner and going into the new year with renewed energy and organizational capacity. It promises to be a very exciting time, but we very much need your participation to make it a success. There are two major ways you can help.
First, if you are not a current CPSR member in good standing, please join or renew your membership.
Second, as a member, get involved! CPSR is its membership---there's really nobody else. Our only staff member is our half-time and wildly over-taxed Managing Director, who has been working well beyond her paid time to try and keep up. The Board of Directors comprises volunteers who can oversee the managerial aspects, but cannot and should not carry the load with respect to the programmatic activities needed to keep this a thriving, active organization. Our success is therefore very much dependent on members' energy, enthusiasm, and engagement.
Among the things I urge members to consider:
- Volunteer to help get the new website up-to-speed, and watch the
Compiler for notices of requests for assistance. When the
functionalities are fully in place, use the site to provide content and collaborate with colleagues. Tell us if you have time and ideas on how to help.
- Join or form a Working Group on an issue of particular interest to
you. Work with colleagues to develop our positions and collective
expertise; generate content for the website and publications program; organize campaigns and collaborations with other CSOs; give testimony in policy proceedings, and communicate with business leaders and elected officials---the working groups can be vehicles for these and related activities.
- Form, or resurrect a local, regional, or national Chapter. Work with colleagues to build some community, organize events and campaigns, and so on.
- Consider starting an Ongoing Project on an issue of particular
interest in order to generate support for your work and the
- Join one of the standing Committees that are responsible for various aspects of CPSR's management, such as the Membership Committee, Program Committee, and Publications Committee. The committees bring together representatives of the Board of Directors and the general membership, and thus are not only essential for taking care of organizational business, but also an important means of promoting an open interface between the board and the members.
- Stand for election to the Board of Directors. The board is
responsible for setting CPSR's general direction, deciding matters of
overall policy, fundraising, and agreeing on activities undertaken in
CPSR's name. Given the volunteer nature of the organization and the
amount of work needed to keep it together, serving on the board can be
somewhat demanding, but it can also be interesting and rewarding as
well. We will have several vacancies to fill in the next election
cycle, and are eager to get some new blood that is committed to
sustaining and growing the organization.
- Spread the word. Tell friends about CPSR. We need more members!
My best wishes for a happy holiday season.
Last modified February 04, 2005 09:06 PM