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Guidelines for CPSR Groups

Working Groups
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility


What Does CPSR Do?

CPSR provides a discussion and project space where individuals can contribute to the public debate and design of our global digital future. Through CPSR’s chapters and working groups, members focus on regional and civic issues – developing the public voice. To insure a democratic future in a time of intense globalization, the voice of the public must command a prominent position on the world stage. CPSR frames and channels the public voice.

By working through an organization like CPSR, rather than alone, you are able to join a community of like-minded people who have built and accumulated resources -- both administrative and intellectual -- to help achieve your goal. CPSR can provide access to media and public relations outlets, worldwide distribution systems for your work, a large body of expertise among fellow CPSR members and sister organizations, help with organizing events and can put you in touch with many other resources. By relying on CPSR's 20+ years of experience, you can focus on your area of interest without the distractions of developing these resources for yourself.

Defining CPSR Chapters and Working Groups

CPSR members, working together, are the heart of CPSR. Members are encouraged to identify issues, conduct research, perform analyses, and help shape the future of the Information Society. CPSR provides an opportunity for like-minded individuals to collaborate on shared interests, empowered by CPSR's name, reputation and organization.

To facilitate the collaborative work, CPSR members can self-organize into formal groups approved by the CPSR Board. Groups based on geographical regions (countries, states, provinces, cities) are referred to as "Chapters". Groups based on issues or events are called "Working Groups". These guidelines apply to both.

Chapters may be based on a specific location and related to the activities of a single geographical area. Working Groups may be long-lived and devoted to a theme (e.g. civil liberties) or short-lived and based upon a single event (e.g. a workshop or writing an op-ed). Chapters and Working Groups can be 'virtual' with members rarely, if ever, meeting face-to-face. Chapters and Working Groups may have value simply by having a presence and contact on the CPSR website, acting as constituencies of experts who can share their expertise with other members, the public, and the press. Geographically close members sometimes meet for coffee, a meal, or dessert for face-to-face contact that fits into otherwise busy lives.

What is a CPSR Member?

A CPSR member is someone who either has a life membership or is current with his or her CPSR dues. This makes them eligible to vote in CPSR elections, identify themselves as CPSR members, and participate in transactions with outside entities on behalf of CPSR and serve as officers of CPSR chapters and working groups. While many of the activities sponsored by CPSR are attended and even organized with the help of non-members, voting members and officers of all CPSR chapters or working groups must be official, dues-paying CPSR members. Non-members, who have been invited and approved by the group, may participate in working groups and chapters at the pleasure of the group. Non-members cannot vote in either group or CPSR elections and cannot serve as an officer of a working group or chapter. We strongly urge all participants to become CPSR members within three months so they can enjoy the full range of member privileges.

How CPSR Members Work Together

CPSR members further the mission of CPSR - providing the public and policymakers with realistic assessments of the power, promise, and problems of information technology - by sharing their views through email discussion lists; having a presence and contact information on CPSR's website; reporting in the CPSR membership publications; and getting together socially; hosting speakers, debates, talks, conferences; writing statements, testimonies, FAQs, and other documents. The formation of chapters and working groups provides members with the organizational framework to turn ideas and concerns into effective activism. This way members can work with relative autonomy while coordinating with the CPSR staff and Board, other members, and related organizations. . For more examples of member activities, see the Activists Handbook.

Why Do We Need Guidelines?

These guidelines define the relationship between a self-organized group of members and the central organization. They provide the structure necessary to insure consistency and coherence throughout the organization, while supporting the autonomy and creativity of the group.

With consistent and regular reporting mechanisms, CPSR groups will be highly visible to the rest of the organization and to the public, improving their ability to attract new members and attention to their work. By standardizing the way we do things, we will make it easier for members and the public to locate areas of interest and opportunities to participate.

The CPSR organizational structure is evolving. We encourage feedback and suggestions as to how to best strike a balance between a coherent CPSR image and maximum flexibility for member activities.

We realize it is difficult for leaders of working groups and chapters to monitor who is and isn't a current CPSR member. The central office ( can quickly verify member status when needed.

How to Create a Chapter or Working Group

Note: Different countries have various legalities with regard to creating non-governmental organizations. Legal incorporation may require extra steps, not listed here. We will have to research these on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate methods of creating chapters outside the U.S. and provide the maximum ability to function within the chapter's national requirements.

  1. First determine whether your idea might fit within an existing group. Check out the established Working Groups at and Chapters at You can solicit initial feedback from the CPSR board by writing to Include a brief description of your idea as text within the e-mail message. Board members might suggest your idea fits well within an already existing Chapter or Working Group, and can advise you about its "fit" with the overall CPSR mission.
  2. If approved you can announce your idea to the to find more members interested in joining the new Chapter or Working Group and solicit feedback.
  3. We will announce your intentions in the Compiler for further member interest.
  4. Read through the Petition for Chapter/Working Group Formation at Develop a statement of the group's purpose and what it sees as its end product: simply discussion, a single final report, annual reports? Does the group wish to be set up as a continuing or task-based organization? If the former, why? If the latter, what is the anticipated duration and, again, what are the interim/final products of the group.

  5. This is a good time to begin to line up others who would support the proposed Chapter or Working Group. At least five members are required to start a new Chapter or Working Group. For assistance, write to to ask for help in finding additional interest within the membership.
  6. Work with the other interested members to complete a Petition for Chapter/Working Group Formation. If the Chapter or Working Group is based upon an event or product, also include a timeline with reasonable deadline date for CPSR approval, and the major milestones (with dates) of the project. When thinking through your idea, match it to the goals and mission of CPSR, and outline objectives and intended activities to make a case for its approval.
  7. E-mail your completed petition as a PDF to, or fax to 650-322-4748.
  8. If the Board of Directors does not give immediate approval but sees value in the idea, you will be given suggestions and encouraged to re-submit the proposal.

What CPSR Will Provide Each Group

  • A board member will be designated as the liaison. The Chapter or Working Group should keep the liaison and the CPSR staff informed of its upcoming activities.
  • CPSR staff can provide CPSR materials for events, and can help organize and promote a group's activities.
  • We have global contacts for hundreds of government officials/agencies, organizations related to CPSR's interests, colleges and universities, and the media to help a group's efforts reach a wide audience.
  • Every group will have web hosting at http://(group)
  • Every group will be provided a discussion list for its members on the CPSR e-mail server. This list can be used as a portion of a larger, non-CPSR list which includes non-members. However, the chapter or working group must grant permission for any use of this list for non-CPSR purposes.
  • Additional CPSR members can join by contacting your Chapter or Working Group and having their membership verified by the CPSR staff. CPSR can help contact other local members for chapter activities.
  • Each CPSR Chapter or Working Group shares the name recognition and reputation of the vast body of good work done by all CPSR members in its 21 year history.

What CPSR Needs From Each Group

Regular Communication: The CPSR board needs to know what's going on in the Chapters & Working Groups. Chapters & Working Groups should communicate with the Staff, other members, CPSR groups, and with the CPSR Board as much as possible to continually include/recruit/inform other CPSR members, and reduce duplication of effort.

The CPSR Board is ultimately responsible for anything that goes wrong in chapters and working groups, such as harassment, suits based on ethnic exclusions, etc. Therefore, we ask that all groups follow the guidelines set forth in the CPSR Electronic Communication Policy.

Clearly Understood Financial Arrangements: The CPSR office must be included in financial issues. This is because CPSR is legally responsible for CPSR funds. Funding for Chapter or Working Group activities must be pre-approved for reimbursement. Please do not commit payment for services before receiving approval from the CPSR Office. Methods for requesting funds are detailed below.

Projects That Fall Within CPSR’s Mission: Chapters and Working Groups must work within the bounds of CPSR's Mission, Program, and By-Laws to insure that CPSR's name and activities remain true.

Chapters & Working Groups must be careful to preserve CPSR's tax-exempt status (CPSR is incorporated in California and must follow California and U.S. laws concerning public charities) and are encouraged to contact the CPSR Staff or the Membership Committee Chair with any questions about projects being considered by the chapter. Our tax exempt status allows U.S. taxpayers to give money to CPSR and deduct it from their taxable income. In the U.S. this status excuses CPSR from paying taxes and is considered a privilege. To keep it we must refrain from committing a large portion of our income to lobbying U.S. governments, and must meet other requirements. The implications of this status vary outside the U.S. and will need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Record Keeping: The electronic discussions of CPSR constitute our core business activities. Consequently, digital archives of discussions on official CPSR lists will be maintained. All financial records should be submitted to the central office regularly.


CPSR Guideline Checklist

  • Represent CPSR in a professional and ethical manner in keeping with the CPSR image, mission statement, tax-exempt status, privacy and personnel policies
  • Create and maintain a website at http://(group) that contains contact information for the Chapter or Working Group and provides information about the Chapter or Working Group's activities and events
  • Use CPSR's name with their work
  • Provide reports for the CPSR membership publications
  • Organizational development such as seeking new members and fundraising
  • Contact members of the group at least quarterly
  • Share membership and donation information with CPSR
  • Share concerns and projects with CPSR
  • Stay up-to-date about CPSR
  • Maintain and submit financial records

How Groups Identify Their Positions To the Public

Chapters & Working Groups can publish position papers and make statements independently as long as they're clear that it is being done in the name of the Chapter or Working Group, itself, rather than representing an official position of CPSR. (For example, "CPSR/Privacy, a working group of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility")

Positions must be approved by a group in a democratic fashion. Whether through voting, consensus building, approval by default, etc., group members must have the opportunity to review and comment on a position before it is made public.

Statements or actions in the name of the CPSR organization must - by law and practice - be approved by the CPSR Board. Some activities - like lobbying - must be kept within strict guidelines as explained above.

How Groups Keep the CPSR Board of Directors Informed

CPSR group leaders are asked to submit formal reports to the CPSR Board of Directors just prior to each Board Meeting, (3 times a year) - more frequently if requested by the Board.

Dissolution of a Chapter/Working Group

Just as we hope to enable groups to form easily to meet the ever-growing number of issues and computer users, we need to let groups that have fulfilled their usefulness, pass away. Inactive groups are a drain on CPSR’s limited resources, and misleading to new members.

If a Chapter or Working Group is inactive for more than six months - reporting requirements are unmet, inquiries are not answered - the CPSR Board can ask for new Chapter or Working Group leadership. No group will be disbanded without a strenuous effort to gather feedback and to take all steps possible to preserve the group.

Should a group refuse compliance or cooperation, it may be operated/disbanded by the Board.

A Chapter or Working Group can separate from CPSR and become independent with at least 30 days prior notice to the Board of Directors. Notification of this change to any grant-makers is the responsibility of the Chapter or Working Group leaders. The CPSR Board of Directors can withhold any previously committed CPSR funding at that time.

Upon dissolution all CPSR records and funds must be returned to the CPSR office.

How CPSR Can Help With Funding

CPSR is very aware that money is needed in addition to the energy of our members. However, our ability to stretch our resources across our many worldwide projects is limited. Please remember that CPSR has limited resources and that the needs of many Chapters & Working Groups must be taken into account.

A Chapter or Working Group can raise money through donations, fees for events, corporate sponsorships, grants, or by requesting funds from CPSR. We strongly encourage Chapters & Working Groups to fundraise for events to supplement CPSR funding. See How to Fund a CPSR Event for more ideas. Also, due to the sometimes-high cost of transferring funds outside the U.S., every effort must be made to accommodate funding requests while minimizing fees.

Requests Under $100

Requests of $100 or less can be handled by the Managing Director. Some examples of expenses that could be funded are refreshments for get-togethers, printing, space, audio/visual rental, gas money and economy travel to speak or meet with other Chapter or Working Group members. Expenses must be kept as low as possible.

Requests Between $100 and $500

We ask that you submit a proposed budget to the Membership Committee for review. Requests should be made before any commitments (financial or otherwise) are made. After the funds have been used, the Chapter or Working Group must account for the money spent and submit a short report on the activity.

Requests Over $500

Projects over $500 will require outside funding efforts such as grant proposal writing, corporate solicitation, or fundraising events. These will require more intense review and be considered on a case-by-case basis. CPSR can assist with large fundraising efforts through grant-writing support, conference-planning guidelines, and other resources. The office is also available to help with online registration, publicity, and mailings.

Financial Reporting

Because CPSR is ultimately responsible for reporting all income and expenses on our annual taxes, the central office must be kept informed about money raised and spent. This is extremely important. We ask that the Chapter or Working Group send a monthly report of the project’s finances for as long as the project takes. Inadequate reporting could result in the dissolution of the Chapter or Working Group or the removal of the leader. The CPSR Board of Directors retains final oversight authority of the Chapter or Working Group finances.

Possible Chapter or Working Group Leadership

(at least one leader is required, all leaders must be CPSR members in good standing, and the responsibilites of every position need to be met)


It is critically important that when leadership is passed on to another, CPSR is notified and all CPSR records are passed along as well.


The Chair acts in the name of the Chapter or Working Group and is responsible for communicating with the Membership Committee chair and CPSR staff about projects being considered/undertaken by the Chapter or Working Group. This is particularly true for any project that meets the following criteria:

1) financed entirely or in part by funds from CPSR, or

2) makes use of resources of CPSR, e.g. mailing lists or non-trivial office services, or

3) involves external fundraising that might compete with CPSR fundraising efforts, or

4) includes publications issued in the name of CPSR, including press releases.

Any project that meets one or more of these criteria must be approved by the Board of Directors, and must have a designated chair from the Chapter or Working Group (who may or may not be the Chapter Chair) authorized by the Chapter or Working Group to make decisions in consultation with the Managing Director. Ultimately, the Chair has the responsibility for making sure that any Chapter or Working Group activity that needs CPSR consideration is brought to the attention of the Board of Directors.


The Secretary is responsible for the following duties:

  1. Maintaining the Chapter or Working Group membership database. When new member information and/or dues come to the attention of the Chapter or Working Group, it must be sent to CPSR. As needed, the communities can ask the CPSR Staff for up-to-date information about their members. Be aware that members join and lapse daily. Only the central CPSR membership database is always up-to-date. CPSR does not share its membership information with other organizations or CPSR Chapters & Working Groups.
  2. Sending periodic mailings, at least two per year, to Chapter or Working Group members and CPSR Staff to announce Chapter or Working Group meetings as well as other issues which the Chapter or Working Group deems important.
  3. Acting as liaison between the Chapter or Working Group and CPSR, with reports submitted before each of the three board meetings.
  4. Reporting of Chapter or Working Group meetings to be submitted to CPSR


The Treasurer is responsible for keeping records of any financial transactions. In most cases, where Chapters & Working Groups will have minimal financial transactions over the year, Chapters & Working Groups SHOULD NOT open bank accounts. Instead, Chapter or Working Group monies can be tracked, reported, and dispersed through the CPSR Office.

In rare cases when CPSR agrees that a separate Chapter or Working Group bank account is needed, the Treasurer is responsible for:

1) opening and maintaining a Chapter or Working Group bank account;

2) collecting and disbursing funds;

3) keeping accurate financial records for the Chapter or Working Group;

4) filing yearly financial reports with CPSR.

Ongoing responsibilities include protecting CPSR's tax-exempt status by watching over activities to be sure that they do not violate any IRS (Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. tax agency) requirements, and alerting CPSR of changes in applicable tax laws, insofar as the could affect CPSR.


The Contact is listed on the CPSR website and in other publications, to answer inquiries about CPSR and the Chapter or Working Group. This person should be knowledgeable about aspects of CPSR that would be of interest to a prospective member or funder, and should be able to communicate this knowledge well when contacted. He or she should also send out informational materials on request. The position of Contact may be filled by a chapter officer or by any Chapter or Working Group member who is qualified.

Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

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International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

The growing importance of civil liberties in a paranoid world: we need organizations like CPSR.