Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics (COE) serves as a guide and point of reference for all staff, board members, and volunteers on all ethical matters related to The Sycamore Institute’s (TSI) research, relationships, and communications. It also provides guidance on interactions with policymakers, donors, and all others who use TSI’s research products. Compliance with the COE is critical to preserving the organization’s independence and integrity as a nonpartisan public policy research center. In accordance with TSI’s mission, any third parties for which work is performed by TSI will be required, as part of their contractual agreement with TSI, to acknowledge and accept that TSI’s work will be performed independently and will not be affected in any manner by the funding source or political or ideological orientation or advocacy of such third parties. Violations of this policy can be reported to our Ethics Hotline.
The Sycamore Institute’s greatest value is the high-quality, nonpartisan public policy research its staff produces. Its integrity as a reliable source of information and its independence from outside interests – political, corporate, individual, government, non-government, or other – is necessary to achieve its mission. As a result, the organization has adopted this Code of Ethics.
I. No Lobbying
The Sycamore Institute adheres strictly to a no-lobbying policy. TSI staff members are prohibited from lobbying as defined by federal and state laws and rules. TSI staff members can and should provide nonpartisan analysis, study and research, including evaluating the elements of a policy proposals, describing potential costs and benefits, illuminating tradeoffs, and disseminating the information to the public. Staff can and should respond to official requests on behalf of a governmental body, committee, subcommittee, or taskforce. All content created by TSI and provided in these instances will be available to the public.
II. Interactions with Donors
The Sycamore Institute is grateful for the generous support of its donors, including institutional, individual, and other contributors. TSI engages with its donors in a variety of ways, including meetings, phone calls, events, research publications, and specialized communications. At all times, TSI staff and board members must take care not to engage in conduct that might be construed as representing the interests of an outside party. They must also avoid any activity that might call into question the independence and integrity of The Sycamore Institute. Prospective donors that might compromise TSI’s reputation for conducting high-quality, nonpartisan work may be flagged, and additional information or evaluation may be required before a contribution is accepted. The Sycamore Institute will be transparent about its funding sources.
If commissioned or grant-funded to conduct a research project, TSI staff will work in partnership with the funder to define the research question and scope of the project. They may and should discuss the proposed structure, methodology, data sources and other details, but The Sycamore Institute retains final judgement on all aspects of the project. TSI will not accept any project as to which the funding entity seeks to direct, control, or otherwise influence the project. This limitation does not prevent the funder from providing data or other information to TSI staff that may be utilized by TSI staff in performing its work. Any funding entity will be required, as part of its contract with TSI, to agree (1) not to direct, control, or otherwise influence the outcome of the project; and (2) not to represent to any individual or entity, publicly or privately, that the policy, political, or ideological orientation of the entity is endorsed by TSI.
III. Responsibilities & Conflicts of Interest
All Sycamore Institute staff members are responsible for maintaining the organization’s independence and integrity as a research center. Staff agree to review the COE annually, participate in related periodic trainings, and consult with the executive director before proceeding with any activity that might be or could be perceived as contrary to the letter or spirit of this code.
The Sycamore Institute’s volunteer board of directors will provide oversight and counsel to the executive director as needed on matters covered in the COE, including participation in periodic review of the code.
Annually, all staff and board members will complete a conflict of interest disclosure form to identify any potential conflicts with the best interests of TSI.
Reviewed and approved by the board of directors: 9/21/17