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Activists Handbook

CPSR Activists Handbook

Working Groups
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

How to make the most of your CPSR membership

Technology is driving the future, the steering is up to us . . .

and we need every hand at the wheel!

CPSR Members Have Almost Unlimited Opportunity To Get Involved And Make Change Happen

The work of CPSR is largely financed by membership dues, and carried out by its members. CPSR's areas of activity are developed by, and depend on, the interests of members. Our members meet mostly virtually and sometimes locally. Members act locally, nationally, and internationally to put on events; write articles, factsheets, web pages, journals and books; speak at conferences and legislative meetings; speak to the press; and talk to students about the need to consider the impact of technology on their world.

We only have one staff member, our Managing Director, Susan Evoy, in Palo Alto, California. Susan keeps the organization running on a day-to-day basis, and helps members get things done. She can be contacted at, (650) 322-3778, (650) 322-4748 (fax),

P.O. Box 717, Palo Alto, CA, 94302 USA.

Join the Discussion

One of CPSR's members-only discussion list, CPSR-Activists, is a way to be in on the ground floor of discussions of issues and events, and interact with the board. This is where the board and general members discuss current policy issues, organizational issues, and receive announcements of events. Only subscribed members are welcome to post to this list.

To subscribe, go to h

Join the Experts' List and Speak with the Media

CPSR maintains a list of members who are willing to speak to the media on particular issues. When a reporter calls, Susan passes on the contact information for those members who have volunteered their expertise. If you are interested, please write to

Participate in Working Groups

Working Groups are electronic discussion lists made up of CPSR members and focused on various topics. This is where CPSR policy positions are born. Members, including many experts, discuss topics in great detail and this is often where the first news of something will appear. Working groups are expected to develop CPSR's positions and fact sheets reflecting their discussions, and present them on CPSR's website. Other products of working groups could include:

* press releases, articles, editorials, newsletters, white papers, periodicals or books

* work with community members or organizations to develop community projects

* written or oral testimony

* consultatations on other projects and studies

* letters to business leaders and elected officials

Examples of the wonderful work members have done in the past can be found at:


Current CPSR Working Groups


Members can join group discussions by using

Community Networking

This group discusses the many challenges facing communities and the civic sector as the Internet creeps into our traditional means of civic engagement. It is the working group of CPSR's Public Sphere Project.


Cyber Rights

On this moderated mailing list there is news on civil liberties, access, privacy, Internet administration, and other key policy topics facing the users of electronic networks.


Domain Name System Working Group

The DNS discussion list focuses on the core of Internet Governance issues and the controversial ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.


Education Working Group

This group's members have a special interest and passion in the role computers play in education..


Computers and the Environment

This group promote awareness and action concerning the relationship between computing and our natural environment..


Ethics Working Group

The Ethics Working Group strives to stimulate and heighten awareness of the social and ethical implications of all aspects of computers and information technology, including design, manufacture, disposal, and applications derived for any purpose.


Intellectual Property

This informal group is focusing on intellectual property issues.


Computers and the Law

This Group provides the CPSR Board with policy analysis concerning any Federal or State issues concerning Computer Law which the Board requests.


Privacy Working Group

This list discusses the many, many issues surrounding privacy. It is currently working on a white paper exploring the role of Chief Privacy Officer in organizations.



This informal group of CPSR members works with other organizations against the legalization of bad software


Voting Issues Working Group

This list discusses voting technology issues, especially in the wake of the 2000 US Elections.


Weapons & Peace Working Group

This list discusses the reliability and risks issues of computer technology.


The Graces

Named after Grace Hopper, this informal group works to get women involved in all aspects of computing, so that they are not left out of the information age.


Computers in the Workplace/Participatory Design

This group works on a variety of issues including computer-based monitoring of workers, worker health and safety, worker privacy, and conditions of employment, as well as, an approach to technology design originating in Scandinavia that engages current and prospective technology users early and in a fundamental way in the technology's design and continuing redesign. Many of its members work closely with the Participatory Design Conferences.


If you don't see a Working Group that fits your Interest(s), Start a New One

See Group Guidelines


CPSR projects provide the means and structure through which CPSR activists can formalize their activities as part of the CPSR program by establishing a semi-autonomous cost-center oriented on an appropriate and Board approved CPSR area. This structure is intended to encourage serious ongoing program work by members while expanding CPSR expertise on appropriate issues.


Civil Society Democracy Project

This project works on ICANN issues and Internet governance. CivSoc is CPSR's participant in the Internet Democracy Project and the Civil Society Internet Forum. CivSoc also publishes the Cyber-Federalist newsletter. See:


A coalition of computer professionals, human rights workers, and human rights organizations harnessing the power of technology and helping to protect human rights workers worldwide.


Public Sphere Project

A CPSR initiative that promotes equitable and effective use of information and communication technology; civic and community problem solving; human -- not technology -- centered approaches; appropriate local and regional tactics and strategies; integration of education, research, technology development, policy and activism; and collaboration with individuals and organizations all over the world. See:

Participate in Your Chapter


CPSR chapters fill many important roles: they provide a meeting place where people with similar concerns can gather to share their thoughts and feelings; they provide a forum for speakers; they are an important source of new ideas and projects; they provide a vehicle of local outreach to the general public and press; they provide a constituency of experts who can be united and enlisted to act on issues at all levels, locally, state, national and international. Limited CPSR funding is available for chapters. We are extending our outreach around the globe with international chapters.. Chapters are beginning in Spain, Europe, Africa and Canada.


If there isn't a Chapter in your Area, Consider Starting One


Show the CPSR Colors

Help bring awareness of CPSR. We don't have the resources for a worldwide campaign. You can help by putting your CPSR bumper sticker on your car or hanging it in your workspace or another visible location, and consider investing in a wardrobe enhancing CPSR t-shirt.


Promote the Student Essay Contest

In an effort to insure that the sense of social responsibility is passed on to the next generation of computer professionals, CPSR hosts an ongoing essay contest meant to encourage research and contemplation over the technological/societal issues of today. Winning essays will be published on Awards are given to winners and the annual winner is invited to present their paper at the Annual Meeting. Help with the contest would include reviewing papers, encouraging your students to participate if you teach, submitting a paper if you are a student, and spreading the word. For more information, contact



Recruit a New Member

Would your neighbor in the next office be interested in joining CPSR? It's amazing how interested most people are in CPSR issues when you get talking. Many want to sound as knowledgeable as you! Direct interested people to where they can read about us and join If you will be attending a conference or other gathering of computer professionals, you can print CPSR brochures from the website at or send a request to with the quantity, address, and date needed for printed brochures to be mailed to hand around or leave on information tables. Interested people can also join CPSR-Announce to receive periodic email announcements of CPSR events and publications.

To subscribe, use

Build Coalitions

Sister organizations abound. For the One Planet, One Net annual meeting in 1998, alone, CPSR developed a coalition of over 60 co-sponsors. We would like to build on that list and other connections we've made over the years, and create a closer working relationship with these groups. In many cases, CPSR could serve as a wonderful outreach vehicle for the good work that many of our sister advocacy groups do. And CPSR can benefit from increased expertise and opportunities to participate in the policymaking process. Contact Coralee Whitcomb -


Help Organize CPSR Events


The CPSR staff helps guide event planning and works closely with conference planners.

Annual Meeting

In the fall, CPSR typically holds its Annual meeting and conference. This event moves from place to place each year and hopes to rely on the local chapter to do much of the legwork. Each group of people who organize the Annual meeting have their own sense of project organization. The possible jobs include overseeing the local arrangements (space, lodging, transportation, local publicity, food), program design (helping to devise program theme, invite speakers, handle speaker communication and thank yous) and volunteering on the day of the conference to register people and facilitate the day. The staff handles registration and most of the financial details. CPSR can provide both historical material from other Annual Meetings as well as conference planning "how to" materials. This is a great way to meet some of the big names in the industry! The Sunday of the Annual Meeting typically serves as the legal meeting of members where we gather to discuss CPSR and the road ahead.

Wiener Award Dinner

Each year CPSR recognizes and honors outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing technology with an award named for Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), who, in addition to a long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" into the language and laid the foundation for many aspects of modern computing, was also a leader in assessing the social implications of that new and emerging technology. The Board of Directors chooses and invites the winner(s) to the Wiener Award dinner, which usually takes place on the Saturday evening of the Annual Meeting. Planners work with the staff in helping with publicity, fundraising, and arranging for space and food. Contact

CPSR Activists' Meetings

In conjunction with CPSR Board meetings, CPSR members have the opportunity to discuss program issues with the Board. All members are encouraged to attend. Members, from outside the area, who have been active in CPSR may be eligible for some travel reimbursements to also attend. Local members are asked to help with housing and local arrangements.

Other CPSR Conferences and Events

CPSR members have parented several conferences, in conjunction with CPSR. Some have a special focus and happen biannually.

The Directions and Implications for Advanced Computing (DIAC) and

The Participatory Design Conference (PDC)

Conferences/Workshops/fForums/Debates can be single occurring events.

Putting on an event can be relatively simple if you have one speaker, or panel or set of speakers, and can conentrate on local participation. Events can really put an issue on the front page. If you have an idea, contact



CPSR's web site should be its center piece. We would like to work toward moving it to "portal" status - a first stop for anyone looking up issues dealing with technology and society. We want to become the billboard that announce action alerts of our own and others. This is a major undertaking but one that will return high visibility to its creator. The look of CPSR's new web site will extend to our materials and communication. This is a great undertaking for a small team of webmasters looking to build their portfolio.


CPSR's web pages are growing because of the excellent work of our dedicated members. We need more of you to help us with some ambitious projects. Please let us know if you are willing to take responsibility for pages. We will give you guidelines for creating the pages, and you will have your own password to load your pages onto the CPSR server. Contact


PING! and "The Compiler" for Membership News

CPSR activity takes place all over the world. The only way for us to know what we are doing is to produce regular updates on member efforts. PING! is our internal newsletter sent to members and special friends. Let us know what you're up to! Send news items to



The CPSR Journal

CPSR's flagship publication is the CPSR Journal (previously the Newsletter), a highly regarded quarterly magazine containing in-depth analysis of major issues involving technology. Most newsletters are now online (older ones mainly in plain text, newer ones in HTML). There is a subject index listing articles going back to the first issue in 1983.


Guest Editing

Each issue of the CPSR Newsletter has a theme that is approved by the Publications Committee. The theme area of the CPSR Newsletter is prepared by a volunteer guest editor, relying on (usually) non-professional writers for articles.



CPSR always needs new writers. Be sure to let us know where you have expertise you'd feel comfortable writing or talking about.


Attend a Related Conference and Share Your Experiences

Every year there are numerous relevant conferences and meetings around the globe where CPSR should be represented. To encourage that, CPSR sends periodic listings to its members. CPSR has a travel budget that can be used to subsidize member travel and attendance. If you wish to go to an approved conference, CPSR may be able to subsidize some of the cost of travel and the conference fee when finances permit. In return, you will serve as the official CPSR delegate to the conference and agree to write a report of the conference to post on cpsr-activists, put on the web site, and be referenced in PING! Press passes may be possible for you to arrange with the event sponsors. In the case that more than one member wishes to go to the meeting, the member with the lowest travel costs will be selected. If interested, please contact

Work Closely with the Board on a Committee


The Fundraising Committee is responsible for laying out fundraising plans for the organization. Fundraising activities include appeal letters, proposals, fundraising events, and creating and maintaining a network of conversations that can produce funds. It is responsible to the board for its overall progress and direction of its efforts. We need to develop fundraising "kits" to make proposal writing and event planning "on the fly" easier for our volunteers. Contact

Membership/Board Development

The Committee ensures that members are well informed and supported in their activities. Membership development includes brainstorming over new ways to attract, retain, and nurture members. With a global membership, we need an army of people who can reach out to their neighbor and fellow CPSR member to keep the interest and awareness alive. For more information write to


Though the Program Committee does not do all the program work, it is where the strategic planning takes place for future activities. The committee reviews proposals for national projects and recommends action to the board. It takes responsibility for organizing the Annual Meeting and Wiener Award. For more information write to


The Publications 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. In recent times the scope includes the web page content. The duties of the publications committee include picking the topics for the newsletter, appointing a guest editor, approving web page and newsletter policy. For more information contact


This committee deals with technical operational issues, such as server administration, web server software, mailing list software, system management policies, help requests, etc.

For more information contact

Provide Professional Expertise

Every organization needs a professional now and then. If you have a legal, accounting, technical, art, or public relations background you could be a big help to our organization. Contact if you're interested.

Serve on the Board

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 permanent members. In addition, the board may also include up to four Special Directors, who are appointed by the board. Full terms of office are three years, with staggered expiration dates. A list of the current board members is available at

Board members need to be available for consultation with other board members on a reasonably regular and timely basis, usually through electronic mail; serve and work on at least one committee; and attend board meetings, which are typically held three times a year: in the winter, summer, and fall (in conjunction with the annual meeting). For more information contact




and - of course, there's always MONEY

You know what they say -

you won't get anything if you don't ask!

Individual membership dues and donations received by CPSR just about cover the basic office expenses (with only a Managing Director), a very minimal Annual Meeting and Wiener Award event, PING!s, and online versions of the Journal. Our basic annual budget is $112,000. The minute we take on activities beyond those basics we must have more funding.

If your workplace has a matching fund program, you can multiply your gift and greatly enhance what CPSR can do. If you know of an organization that might be interested in making a corporate donation, please contact

Of course, another way to make ends meet is not to spend as much. If you have a service you think CPSR might be able to use, please let us know -

Some Possible Uses for Donations/Gifts in Kind

Annual Meetings

Wiener Awards

Journals and PING!s

Press Releases

White Papers

Fact Sheets

Coalition Building

Travel for Conference Representatives

Chapter Support

Additional CPSR Staff

Additional CPSR Sales Items

Website Redesign

Urgent Action Enabling Services

Membership Scholarships for Developing Countries and Low Income

Speaker Travel

Advertising Space

Travel miles

Translation Services for our web site and newsletter

Printing services

Graphic Design work


Event Space Rental

Audio/Visual - Video Conferencing

Professional Writers - Press Releases, Grant Proposals

Related Conference Sponsorships

CPSR is a charitable nonprofit organization. Your gift is tax deductible.

CPSR can accept credit cards and donations using


Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

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

I have been using your resources for years.