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CPSR Organizational Structure

Working Groups
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

Organizational Structure

At the national level, the organizational components of CPSR are the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, various standing committees, the Advisory Board, and the staff. This guide outlines the structure and function of each of these groups and is intended as a reference guide for members of CPSR who are involved in the organization.

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1. The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors sets the organization's general direction, decides matters of overall policy, and takes responsibility for activities undertaken in CPSR's name. The Board includes twelve Directors elected by the membership. The four officers (President, Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer), are elected by fellow Directors to the officer positions; and the other eight are Directors-at-Large. In addition, the Board may also include up to four Special Directors, who are appointed by the Board. Terms of office for all Board members are three years, with staggered expiration dates. Current Board members .

All Board members share certain responsibilities. The first of these is attendance at Board meetings, which are typically held three times a year: in the spring, in the summer, and in conjunction with the annual meeting in the fall. In addition, Board members are expected to be available for consultation with other Board members and the various committees on a reasonably regular and timely basis, usually through electronic mail. Board members are expected to serve on at least one of the standing committees and to participate in committee work.

Beyond this, Board members must be committed to the goals and principles of CPSR and are expected to contribute to the well-being of CPSR as an organization. This contribution may take many forms. For example, Board members will be called on to help with the fundraising necessary to continue CPSR's work. Similarly, when CPSR needs to develop a timely response to an issue, the task of drafting that response (and of commenting on any generated draft) will often fall to members of the Board.

Individually, the officers and certain members of the Board have specific responsibilities as outlined below.

1.1 President and Chair

Under the provision of the bylaws (S8.7a-b) that allows delegation of supervisory functions from the President to the Chair, CPSR has tended to consider these two positions as being largely interchangeable. Together, the two officers, "subject to the control of the Board of Directors, generally supervise, direct, and control the business and the officers of the corporation," with particular components of that responsibility divided according to the talents and interests of the individuals involved.

Under our current practice, the President chairs meetings of the Executive Committee and of the Board. For many years, the Chair has also served on the Executive Committee, but this is not required by the bylaws. Under the existing committee structure, the Chair is an ex-officio member of the Fundraising Committee, and the President is an ex-officio member of the Personnel Committee.

1.2 Secretary

The Secretary has the following responsibilities according to the bylaws and the practice of the organization:

  • Writing and preserving minutes of all meetings of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.
  • Managing the election of new officers and Board members and giving appropriate notice of any such election or membership meeting to the membership.
  • Maintaining communication between the chapters, the Board, and the Office. In the past, this has been done in the form of a monthly letter that goes to all chapters and members of the Board, but we are looking for a less labor-intensive way in which to maintain this communication. Routine communication with members is handled by the CPSR Office.
  • Overseeing the membership records, which are in fact maintained by the CPSR Office.

The Secretary is am ex-officio member of both the Publications Committee and the Executive Committee.

1.3 Treasurer

According to the bylaws, the Treasurer has the following responsibilities:

  • Maintaining overall responsibility for the accounts of the organization, most of which are in fact kept by the Office staff.
  • Preparing, in conjunction with the staff and the Finance Committee, a budget for Board approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year.
  • Depositing and disbursing money and valuables. In practice, the office staff has day-to-day responsibility for making deposits and writing checks in the name of the organization.

The Treasurer is an ex-officio member of both the Finance Committee and the Executive Committee.

1.4 Directors-at-Large

Directors-at-Large have no special responsibilities beyond those of all Board members.

1.5 Special directors

In June 1986, the CPSR bylaws were amended by the membership to allow the Board of Directors to create up to four additional positions on the Board who would serve as "Special Directors." The intention behind the change was to "allow the Board to nominate special people who, in the opinion of the Board, have special viewpoints, expertise, or fundraising abilities that make them good candidates for membership on the Board." CPSR believes that such directors will be critical to our success as an organization because they will balance the technical strength represented by the rest of the Board with an understanding of organizational operation and access to funding sources.

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2. Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is charged with acting on behalf of the Board between its meetings. It maintains oversight of the day-to-day details of running the organization and is thus responsible for decisions which are intermediate between the administrative management of the office and the long-term policy guidelines set by the Board. The purpose of the committee is to provide a timely way to get decisions on the interpretation of policy, as set by the full Board.

The permanent members of the Executive Committee are the President, the Treasurer, and the Secretary. Any number of other Board members may attend and vote at Executive Committee meetings. A quorum of the Executive Committee is three, but the quorum must include at least two of the permanent members.

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3. Standing committees

In addition to the Executive Committee, the Board has designated several standing committees, which are responsible for specific aspects of the Board's work. In recent years, we have made significant progress toward having more of the work done in these committees rather than in plenary sessions of the Board, but we need to move even further in this direction to ensure that the Board has sufficient time at its meetings to complete its business.

Members of standing committees need not be members of the Board, subject to the constraint in the bylaws that requires all committees to include at least one Board member.

Each of the standing committees has an electronic mail alias, which makes it easy to contact the members of these committees. See the page on mail aliases later in this guide.

3.1 Board Development Committee

The Board Development Committee was established by the Board of Directors at its meeting of November 21, 1988. It has no designated membership. The purpose of this committee is to seek new candidates for positions on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board.

3.2 Finance Committee

The Finance Committee was established by the Board on April 26, 1987, and includes the Treasurer as an ex-officio member. This committee will monitor the budget and the general financial situation. It will propose a budget to the Board once a year and can propose modifications for approval whenever it deems that circumstances so warrant.

3.3 Fundraising Committee

The Fundraising Committee was established by the Board on April 26, 1987, and includes the Chair. This committee is responsible for creating and maintaining a network of conversations that can produce funds.

3.4 Membership Committee

The Membership Committee was established by the Board at its meeting of March 4, 1989, and was merged with the Chapters/Regions committee at the Board meeting of May 1, 1992. It has no designated membership. This committee is responsible for developing and coordinating a membership plan and an ongoing membership campaign, as well as fostering the grassroots component of CPSR's work by involving members and chapters in CPSR work.

3.5 Personnel Committee

The Personnel Committee was established by the Board on April 26, 1987, and includes the President. This committee is charged with assisting the staff in issues of hiring, evaluation, and the like. This committee also has the specific responsibility for the regular evaluation of the staff.

3.6 Program Committee

The Program Committee was established by the Board on April 26, 1987, and includes staff members with program-level responsibilities. This committee reviews proposals for projects and recommends action to the Board. It will also provide proposals as appropriate to the Board concerning program opportunities and potential allocation of CPSR resources to new programs.

3.7 Publications Committee

The Publications Committee was established by the Board on April 26, 1987, and includes the Secretary. This committee carries out Board policy by making decisions about the editorial content of the newsletter and other publications that go out under the auspices of CPSR.

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4. Advisory Board

The Advisory Board advises the organization on long-range policy. It consists of well-known people who have contributed significantly to the computer field and/or are particularly interested in the issues that CPSR addresses. Members do not meet and have no fixed duties; their major contribution is to lend the support of their reputations to the organization.

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5. Staff

The staff is responsible for organizational administration and is based at the CPSR Office in Palo Alto, California. All correspondence should be sent to our official mailing address:

        P.O. Box 717
        Palo Alto, CA  94302
        (650) 322-3778
        (650) 322-4748 [FAX]
         cpsr @ 

Day-to-day administration and office management is currently provided by Managing Director Susan Evoy ( sevoy @ ).

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6. Friends

Given all of the projects that CPSR would like to undertake, it is impossible for the formally constituted bodies to do it all. Thus, CPSR will often turn to the local chapters or to a set of individuals who have been long-standing supporters of the organization, collectively designated as "friends."

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7. The Norbert Wiener Award for Social Responsibility

CPSR's award for excellence in promoting the responsible use of technology. Here is the presentation speech given by CPSR President Terry Winograd for 1987 award winner David Parnas, and a list of the Award recipients since 1985.

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Last updated March 2002, by Paul Hyland

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Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

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