2016 Conference Questions have been released!

Following are the Conference Questions for 2016.  Please discuss these with your respective groups and Intergroups and report back to the CER Delegates before Conference which is held in April 2016.  Reports can be emailed to delegates@nullalcoholics-anonymous.eu.  A copy of the questions can be downloaded and printed HERE.

Also, you can download a suggested timeline as it pertains to Groups, Intergroups, Region and Conference HERE as it pertains to Conference questions.


 

COMMITTEE NO. 1

  1. Over the years, Conference has addressed the matter of AA members who have disabilities. But what about people who are hearing impaired? This is a disability that is invisible. Do we always ensure at meetings, including Intergroups and Regions that everyone present can hear everything that is said. In not ensuring this, we are failing in our primary purpose of carrying the message. No amount of writing articles, no amount of talking about it, can ensure that it is addressed at every meeting. Would Conference review this matter and make recommendations in ways that meetings, including Intergroups and Regions, can address this matter at every meeting.

 

Background

An excellent article was written in 2001 for the autumn edition of AA News by Paul F. GSB Trustee, (a copy of which is attached) on the back of Conference recommendations made by Committee 4 at that year’s Conference.  It highlighted the problems of members with hearing impairment.

Members who have hearing aids have a help and a hindrance. The hearing aid amplifies sound, so any other noises like a kettle or a fan for example, distort/render inaudible the spoken word. Acoustics in rooms can also have the same effect. People who share very quietly, or have their hand over their mouth. These are things that can be rectified easily, but only if they are reminded constantly about them. People are people, and if not reminded will soon fall back into their old routine.

So why not tell people with hearing impairment to mention it at meetings? Imagine a newcomer sitting shaking at his first meeting! He’s not going to say, “could you please speak up”. If he does not hear the message of recovery, then we are falling down on our primary purpose. The long standing member may not like to admit that he cannot hear all that is being said.

Link to article ‘Disability & Our Primary Purpose:

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/download/1/documents/Disability%20%20and%20%20Our%20Primary%20Purpose.pdf

 

  1. Would Conference consider ways of raising awareness of the “Twelve Concepts Checklist Great Britain”?

 

Background

Following the General Service Conference recommendation in 2006, the original Twelve Concepts Checklist was adapted to reflect the structure of the Fellowship in Great Britain and approved by Conference in 2007:

 

TWELVE CONCEPTS CHECKLIST

Some of these discussion points  were originally  developed  by an AA group  and further  developed  by the  trustees’  Literature  Committee  to  be  distributed  by  the  General  Service Office, US & Canada. Following the General Service Conference recommendation in 2006, these discussion points have been adapted to reflect the structure of our Fellowship in Great Britain.

While this checklist is intended  as a starting  point  for discussion by Groups, Intergroups or Regions, individual  AA members  may  find  it useful  along  with  our  co-founder  Bill  W.’s  writings,  a  service sponsor if you have one and reflection  on your own service experience.

Additional information about the Concepts can be found in The AA Service Manual / Twelve Concepts for World Service and The Twelve Concepts (GB) Illustrated pamphlet. (The Concepts stated here are in the short form.)

Concept I: Final responsibility and ultimate authority for A.A. world services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole Fellowship.

  • Does our group have a group service representative (GSR)? Do we feel that our home group is part of AA as a whole and do our group’s decisions and actions reflect that?
  • Do we hold regular group conscience meetings encouraging everyone to participate? Do we pass that conscience on to the local Intergroup meetings?
  • Is the “collective conscience” of Alcoholics Anonymous at work in my home group? In my area?
  • Where do we fit in the upside-down triangle of AA?
  • Are we willing to do what it takes to ensure that our democracy of world service will work under all conditions?

Concept II: The General Service Conference of A.A. has become, for nearly every practical purpose, the active voice and the effective conscience of our whole Society in its world affairs.

  • Do we have an understanding of the history of the General Service Conference (“Conference”)?
  • Does our home group’s GSR, Regional Representative, Conference Delegate, report back to the group on the highlights of the Conference and Conference recommendations?
  • Is our group meeting its wider Tradition 7 responsibilities?

Concept III: To ensure effective leadership, we should endow each element of A.A. – the Conference, the General Service Board and its service corporations, staffs, committees, and executives-with a traditional “Right of Decision.”

  • Do we understand what is meant by the “Right of Decision”? Do we grant it at all levels of service or do we instruct?
  • Do we trust our trusted servants – GSR, Regional Representative, Conference Delegate, the Conference itself?

Concept IV: At all responsible levels, we ought to maintain a traditional “Right of Participation,” allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.

  • Do we understand the spiritual principles underlying the “Right of Participation”?
  • What does “in reasonable proportion” mean?
  • Do we expect that, because we are AA members, we should be allowed to vote at any group, even if we are not active members of that group?

Concept V: Throughout our structure, a traditional “Right of Appeal” ought to prevail, so that minority opinion will be heard and personal grievances receive careful consideration.

  • Do we encourage the minority opinion, the “Right of Appeal”, to be heard at our home group, Intergroup and Regional meetings and at Conference?
  • What does our group accept as “substantial unanimity”?
  • Has our group experienced the “tyranny of the majority” or the “tyranny of the minority”?
  • Does our group understand the importance of all points of view being heard before a vote is taken?

Concept VI: The Conference recognizes that the chief initiative and active responsibility in most world service matters should be exercised by the trustee members of the Conference acting as the General Service Board.

  • Are we familiar with how our General Service Board (GSB) alcoholic and non-alcoholic trustees serve AA? Are we familiar with how our other trusted servants serve AA?
  • Are we clear about the terms “chief initiative” and “active responsibility”? Can we see a direct link to our home group?

Concept VII: The Charter and Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments, empowering the trustees to manage and conduct world service affairs. The Conference Charter is not a legal document; it relies upon tradition and the A.A. purse for final effectiveness.

  • Do we act responsibly regarding the “power of the purse?”
  • Are we familiar with the Conference Charter and the freedom of action that the trustees must have?
  • Do we realise that the practical and spiritual power of the Conference will nearly always be superior to the legal power of the GSB?

Concept VIII: The trustees are the principal planners and administrators of overall policy and finance. They have custodial oversight of the separately incorporated and constantly active services, exercising this through their ability to elect all the directors of these entities.

  • Do we understand the relationship between the two service entities, the General Service Conference and the General Service Board
  • How can the business term “custodial oversight” apply to the trustees’ relationship to the two service entities?
  • Does my home group receive GSO’s quarterly AA Service News? Subscribe to SHARE  and Roundabout? Do I?

Concept IX: Good service leadership at all levels is indispensable for our future functioning and safety. Primary world service leadership, once exercised by the founders, must necessarily be assumed by the trustees.

  • Do we discuss how we can best strengthen the composition and leadership of our future trusted servants?
  • Do we recognise the need for group officers? What are our criteria for election? Do we sometimes give a position to someone because it would be good for them?
  • Do I set a positive leadership example?

Concept X: Every service responsibility should be matched by an equal service authority, with the scope of such authority well defined.

  • Do we understand “authority” and “responsibility” as they relate to group conscience decisions?
  • Why is delegation of “authority” so important to the overall effectiveness of AA? Do we use this concept to define the scope of “authority?

Concept XI: The trustees should always have the best possible committees, corporate service directors, executives, staffs, and consultants. Composition, qualifications, induction procedures, and rights and duties will always be matters of serious concern.

  • Do we understand how the role of the non-alcoholic trustee members help serve and strengthen the committee system of the General Service Board and General Service Conference?
  • How do we encourage our special paid workers to exercise their traditional “Right of Participation?”
  • Do we practice rotation in all our service positions?

Concept XII: The Conference shall observe the spirit of A.A. tradition, taking care that it never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power; that sufficient operating funds and reserve be its prudent financial principle; that it place none of its members in a position of unqualified authority over others; that it reach all important decisions by discussion, vote, and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity; that its actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy; that it never perform acts of government, and that, like the Society it serves, it will always remain democratic in thought and action.

  • How do we guard against becoming a “seat of perilous wealth or power?”
  • How do we practice prudent use of our Tradition 7 contributions and literature revenue?
  • Do we ensure the spiritual liberties of all AA members by not placing any member in the position of absolute authority over others?
  • Do we try to reach important decisions by thorough discussion, vote and, where possible, substantial unanimity?
  • As guardians of AA’s Traditions, are we ever justified in being personally punitive?
  • Are we careful to avoid public controversy?
  • Do we always try to treat each other with mutual respect and love?

It is noted that the ‘Twelve Traditions Checklist’ was also adapted to reflect the structure in Great Britain and approved by Conference in 2007.  A number of recommendations were agreed at Conference 2015 re raising awareness of the “Twelve Traditions Checklist GB”.

Additional information on the concepts can be found in “The AA Structure Handbook for Great Britain 2013”.

  1. Review new section to be added to The Group under Participation in The Structure Handbook for Great Britain.

 

Background

New section under Participation.


 

COMMITTEE NO. 2

  1. Conference represents the conscience of the Fellowship in Great Britain. 

Would Conference share its experience on how best to prepare delegates?

Considering the amount of responsibility and trust placed in delegates, are the existing guidelines and literature sufficient and being adhered to?

Background

There are currently guidelines in The AA Structure Handbook for Great Britain which include information about being a Conference delegate and alternate. There is also literature listed which Conference delegates are guided to be familiar with. However regions around the country sometimes have additional informal procedures for preparing and selecting delegates. Delegates in some Regions meet as a group to discuss conference questions, answers and background literature and invite alternate delegates to attend so they can gain experience. Some prefer to select their delegates from region assembly members who have had a number of years’ experience on the assembly. Some service bodies hold workshops on the Concepts which can help prepare future delegates. It would be useful if experience on these approaches could be pooled and shared for use by the fellowship at large, given the vital and influential role delegates play in the future of our Fellowship on the largest scale.

  1. Would Conference discuss the value of the use of sobriety chips within the Fellowship?

Background

Many, but by no means all, AA groups in the GB celebrate lengths of sobriety by ‘Claps, Chips and Hugs’ within their regular weekly meetings.  At one such meeting recently, money was requested from the weekly donations pot to buy further ‘Sobriety Chips’ as the group’s supply was running low, particularly in Chips for multiple years.  An attending member of the group then drew attention to the fact that such chips were purchased not via AA but through an outside agency.  This group member stated that this could be interpreted as acting against Tradition Six by financially supporting the outside agency providing such chips.   As GSR to the group I was asked to query at Intergroup whether there was a possibility of bringing the ordering of such chips ‘in-house’, in the same way as literature is ordered.  Whilst this matter was being explored, the purchase of further Chips using the group’s weekly ‘pot’ to finance was discussed at a Group Conscience meeting.

The question was duly put to Intergroup by myself as GSR.  I was informed that it would not be possible to arrange for Chips to be ordered in a similar way to literature, and that any decision re purchase of Chips should be discussed and decided at group level.  However, I was then asked to raise this as a possible Conference question by a member of an AA Group.  This Group has used Sobriety Chips for many years (longer than I have been in the Fellowship), and there is a strong belief within the group that celebration of milestones within sobriety can be enormously helpful and encouraging, especially in the early months of sobriety.  This is deemed particularly significant within our group due to the fact that we have attendees from a local 12 Step Treatment Centre, and therefore have a large number of group attendees in early sobriety, as well as a high turnover of membership of the group.

Clearly Chips differ from literature in that the purchase of literature involves an initial spend to obtain the relevant books etc., but the money is then obtained from the individual purchasers of said books, refunding the initial outlay.  However, there are other resources available to order (such as Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition Hanging banners, ‘slogans’, Serenity Prayer etc.) from the same source as books, and the money for these items is not recouped from individual members of the group.  Therefore it is possible that purchase of ‘Chips’ could be in the same category as these other resources.

 

  1. Review new Chapter 12 – Young People’s Liaison Officer, The AA Service Handbook for Great Britain.

Background

New Chapter 12 – Young People’s Liaison Officer

 


 

COMMITTEE NO. 3

  1. Inventory Question

Would the Fellowship consider that Conference discuss and review two standard annually recurring questions.

In the spirit of Love, Service and Mutual respect would Conference please consider:

 

  1. How well we as a fellowship, in all of its separate elements – Group, Intergroup, Region, GSO and GSB have fulfilled our Primary Purpose over the past year?

To this end consider specific and general actions and reports from all levels of the AA Service Structure. Make suggestions for improvement.

  1. How well have we as a Fellowship used the funds raised through our 7th tradition for our Primary purpose and other activities over the past year.

To this end consider specific and general actions and reports from all levels of the AA Service Structure. Make suggestions for improvement.

Background

  • AA Preamble
  • Tradition 5
  • Alcoholics Anonymous: specifically the chapters Working With Others and A Vision For You

 

  1. Would Conference consider the feasibility of holding a single celebratory convention in 2022 to mark the 75th year of AA in Great Britain? This could be along the lines of the 50th anniversary celebration held in 1997. The 50th year anniversary event involved the participation of all 16 regions of Great Britain and Continental Europe and was held at a convenient central location in order to maximize participation across the whole Fellowship.

Intention

Based upon the time it takes to plan and organize such an event if it is to happen this question really needs to be taken into consideration in 2016 as the planning will take a some 6 to 7 years to be done effectively.

Background

  • A similar question was submitted to Conference in 1991 asking about the possibility of holding a 50th Anniversary celebration convention, this gave the Fellowship sufficient time in advance (6 years) in which to plan such a major event. If anything similar is to be held for the 75th then the question really should be asked of the Fellowship in 2016
  • The Fellowship’s 50th Anniversary was marked by a celebratory convention held at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool in 1997 with over 8,000 members attending.

 

COMMITTEE NO. 4

  1. Would Conference consider making AA pamphlets available online?  If so, would Conference consider making such materials available not just to view but to save, distribute, and print?

Background

A large body of materials is available to view, save, distribute, and print, from the USA AA website (http://www.aa.org/).

Currently, a very small number of AA pamphlets are available online from the Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain website (http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/), for example the pamphlet ‘Is AA for you?’

Most pamphlets are available from GSO by mail order only.

When AA literature is to be used in public information and liaison work, physical pamphlets must therefore be ordered. Some of the materials are provided free of charge; others are not.

The drawbacks of this are as follows:

  • Significant postage costs.
  • The implementation of physical mailshots of literature is very time-consuming for serving officers.
  • Recipient organisations cannot then easily distribute the information internally.

The advantages of the proposed measure would be as follows:

  • The work of public information and liaison officers would be greatly facilitated.
  • The AA message could reach more organisations, more individuals within those organisations, and    more individual still-suffering alcoholics.

The only disadvantage might be the loss of net contribution from literature sales to outside organisations or individual members of AA.

In order to limit the loss of revenue, one option might be to extend this offer only to those pamphlets used routinely in public information work, e.g.:

  • All items under the heading ‘For Professional and Business People’ in the ‘Price List & Order Form 2014/15’
  • ‘A Brief Guide To AA’
  • Items aimed at specific groups of (potential) AA members (e.g. ‘Younger People in AA (GB)’, ‘AA and the Armed Services)’, etc.
  1. Would the Fellowship consider to what extent Conference truly represents ‘the practical means by which the Group conscience in AA GB can express itself in matters that concern the Fellowship as a whole’?

Background

The Role and Function of Conference

AA Structure Handbook for Great Britain

Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, page 217-218:

“On their first day, the delegates inspected our Headquarters, got acquainted with the service staff, and shook hands with the Trustees. In the evening there was a briefing session under the name of “What’s on your mind?” We answered questions of every description. The delegates began to feel at home. Seeing their quick understanding and confidence, our spirits rose. We all sensed that something momentous was happening; this was a historic moment.
One strenuous session followed another. The delegates inspected A.A.’s finances and listened to reports from the Board of Trustees and from all of the services. There was warm but cordial debate on many questions of A.A. policy. The Trustees submitted several of their own serious problems for the opinion of the Conference. With real dispatch the delegates handled several tough puzzlers about which we at Headquarters were in doubt. Though their advice was sometimes contrary to our own views, we saw they were frequently right. They were proving as never before that A.A.’s Tradition Two was correct. Our group conscience could safely act as the sole authority and sure guide for Alcoholics Anonymous. As the delegates returned home, they carried this deep conviction with them.”


COMMITTEE NO. 5

  1. Could the Fellowship discuss the advantages and the means of making the Archive at GSO York more accessible?

Background

1) During the last couple of decades much good work has been undertaken to preserve experience by storing written and digital records. Those privileged to view the Archive at York have recognized the great spiritual wealth of the material contained in the Archive. Although some of these records are available to view at GSO and some Regional and Intergroup Archivists have used the Archive in order to compile Histories, the Archive is seen only by very few.

2) Whilst the Anonymity of members past and present must be respected, is it not a basic need and responsibility of Alcoholics Anonymous to share the experience strength and hope contained in the Archive?

Possible Methods of achieving more accessibility:

1) A viewable Catalogue of Material deposited in the Archive at York.

2) Appropriate sections of the material stored on the computer at GSO made open for viewing by members at more outlets throughout the country, e.g. Service Offices.

3) Archive material that is stored digitally anonymised using a computer redacting programme which would remove any personal details from material stored digitally (e.g. Newsletters) and thus make it possible to allow open viewing by members on discs or web site pages in a similar way to Conference Reports.

4) A spreadsheet or database of information taken from the records in the Archive, compiled in order to convey some of the information from the Archive but also to act as a finding aid (example page).

This could be indexed by Group name or discipline and after scrutiny to ensure it is accurate, and free of sensitive items, could be openly viewed by members on discs or web site pages, or sent to members on request. A team of approximately a dozen trusted volunteers, working on an agreed template could possibly cover Archive documents such as Minutes, letters and Reports up to 1966 within a year or so. Members interested in a particular discipline or in a particular group could thus gain information from the spreadsheet and would know where specific information could be located in the Archive.

Link to example spreadsheet:

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/download/1/Library/Documents/Conference%20Reports%20and%20Background/Example%20Spreadsheet.doc

  1. Would Conference consider the necessity of having dedicated Conference Delegates from Share and Roundabout and make a recommendation.

Reasons/Background

  • AA Great Britain (GB) adopted the Concepts in their entirety. Concept 4 states that      Grapevine sends a Delegate to the US/Canadian Conference in order to speak for Grapevine          in any decisions made by that Conference which would affect Grapevine.  “Directors                    ..Grapevine…executive staff…shall always be voting members of the General Service                      Conference itself.”
  • Concepts 3, 8 and 11 also relate to Grapevine, Inc.’s relationship to Conference.
  • Because of AA GB’s need to adopt the Concepts in their totality, Roundabout has always had the prerogative to be represented by a Delegate at Conference.
  • Once the Newsletter split (into AA Service News and Share), Share had an equal prerogative to be represented by a Delegate at Conference.
  • The Share and Roundabout Delegates have always been elected from their respective Editorial Teams.

However, the circumstances between the USA/Canada and GB are not the same:

  • Grapevine is a separate entity from AA, as is AA World Services (the printing arm of AA in the US/Can).
  • Under Concept 8, Grapevine is protected from decisions made by Conference and needs separate representation at Conference.  Because of this, a Grapevine delegate is sent: a) to              represent Grapevine’s views; and b) to answer Conference’s questions about Grapevine.
  • In AA GB those functions are undertaken by the Share / Roundabout
  • The Share and Roundabout Editorial Teams are each Sub Committees of the General Service Board (GSB) of AA GB; each Team is chaired by a Trustee of the GSB and those Trustees already attend Conference.  The current situation means that Share and Roundabout are doubly represented at Conference.
  • Share and Roundabout are the only Sub Committees of the GSB GB which send separate Delegates to Conference.
  • Share / Roundabout have not always sent Delegates to Conference, some years no-one has  attended.  The reasons being:
  • All Sub Committee members may have already attended Conference as Regional Delegates.

  • A Delegate must be a serving member of the Sub Committee throughout their three-year term at Conference. This may conflict with their four-year term of service on the Sub Committee.

  • The Share / Roundabout Conference Delegates have only their own AA GB Sub Committees to be accountable to (up to 8 members each) as opposed to Regional Delegates, who have thousands of members to whom they are answerable and whose views ought to be taken to Conference.
  • At Conference, the Share / Roundabout Delegates are attached to one of the six Committees and are able to vote in those Committees.  They also vote in the plenary. This gives them a disproportionate advantage in terms of fair representation of the Fellowship.
  • In attending Conference, Share / Roundabout Delegates do not significantly contribute to our primary purpose work.
  • There are financial implications to each Sub Committee having a Conference Delegate: attending Sub-Committee meetings; Pre- and/or Post-Conference meetings; and Conference itself.

The proposers suggest that there is no beneficial reason for the two magazines sending special Delegates to Conference.  Conference Delegates are responsible for making the decisions and the journals’ Board Trustees are in a position to respond to any queries Conference may have in matters affecting either Share or Roundabout.

  1. Review Violence and Personal Conduct – The Group pages 82-85, The Structure Handbook for Great Britain.

Background

Draft Violence and Personal Conduct

 


 

COMMITTEE NO. 6

  1. Would Conference share experience and make recommendations on the conduct, frequency, and content of Group Conscience Meetings within the Fellowship?

Background:

Our Intergroup recently held a Workshop on ‘The Group Conscience – a sharing of Group experience on running Group Conscience Meetings’ and it became clear that at a practical level there exists a degree of confusion between Group business meetings, Group inventories, and what are generally known as Group Conscience meetings. The existing literature, notably the leaflet ‘the AA Group’ make clear that a Group Conscience meeting is purely a Group inventory meeting and lists the questions which a Group may consider at such a meeting. The leaflet also describes  the possible content of a ‘Business’ meeting but does not identify the Group Conscience Meeting as anything other than a Group Inventory. The collective experience at our Workshop indicated however  a consensus around Group Conscience meetings as being a ‘hybrid’ of business meeting and at least some element of Group Inventory as part of the meeting. The AA Structure Handbook 2013 combines the two ‘The Group Conscience and Business Meetings’ and indicates a combination of business meeting and Group conscience meeting ‘which usually takes the form of a group inventory’.

Past Conference questions have consistently suggested that the holding of regular Group Conscience meetings as good practice for any AA Group; again our experience showed a wide range of practices and raised questions as to when best to hold such meetings; before, after, or separately from normal meeting times.

In addition some guidance on the format of Group Conscience meetings was felt to be needed (and we did attempt to do this as part of the Workshop outcome) particularly by new Groups and Groups that did not hold regular Group Conscience meetings.

Background Information: The leaflet ‘The AA Group’ p15/24-25; ‘The AA Structure Handbook for Great Britain’ p74-75/85; Traditions 2 and 4; Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p136-140; AA Comes of Age p98-99; The Language of the Heart p78/81.

 

  1. Should donations be made to Churches and other venues that refuse to accept rent from AA Group Meetings held at those venues?

Background Reading:

The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (Long Form)