One Intergroup’s Experience Moving Online

DISCLAIMER: Please note that there are a variety of tools and platforms available to bring your meetings online. Our experience has been with using Zoom, but please note that this is in no way an endorsement for Zoom.

Dear all,

These are challenging times and we need our fellowship more than ever. In dealing with the impossibility to meet up face to face, we, in the Berlin English speaking community, ended up setting up a cluster of Zoom accounts at the Intergroup level in order to provide the possibility for each group to move online quickly. As a few other AA communities have already been reaching out to us, we decided to document our process in doing so and hope this will be of help.

We decided to go with Zoom as this solution is strong, very reliable, and works well even when the personal bandwidth is not great. Furthermore, this is a browser-based app so the participants in a meeting could join with simply one click from their laptops (their phone might ask them to download the app Zoom Cloud Meetings, but that’s a very easy step, too), without creating an account.

We looked at the different pricing here: https://zoom.us/pricing

When setting up Zoom accounts, the important thing for us to assess in advance was: what is the network of meetings we need to cover?

What we did not want was to end up with tons of separate Pro accounts that would burgeon as soon as a few more meetings wanted to go online. Then we would need to administer all of them together at the same time.

If you are dealing with a very small fellowship or an individual group, a free account might even work. The only difference is that these meetings end after 45 minutes.

If a group/meeting is looking to set up a few meetings or an individual group, our research has shown that one single Pro account is enough. Meetings are limited to 100 participants, and through this one single Host, you can set up many meetings. The only requirement is that no two meetings happen at the same time and that they do not overlap each other, otherwise the meetings would cancel each other.

In our case, we have too many meetings running in parallel, so we had to go for the Business accounts. This is 19 EUR per month but this requires buying at least 10 host licenses at once. After taxes, this comes to a minimum of roughly 230 EUR/month for us. That said, with this solution, we can then run as many as 10 meetings in parallel. This is ideal for an Intergroup level or if a few meeting venues are working together.

The meeting capacity is limited to maximum 300 participants for each meeting, although extra capacity can be bought.

Here are a few recommendations on setting the accounts:

-create in advance new neutral email addresses (ex: aacityzoomhost@nullprotonmail.com,…) that can be shared with the other administrators (you need one email address per “Host”).

-create “recurring” meetings when setting up the meeting.

-tick for each meeting “enable meeting before host”: this is very important as this is how anyone can join without having to have a physical Host present.

The way we are using it, our Hosts are only virtual. The benefit is two-fold:

-financially we can regroup many meetings under the umbrella of one host without having those meetings share anything or organize a collaboration between them. In our case, if each meeting wanted to be a Host, we’d need a budget of over 1000 EUR per month.

-in order to be a Host, each moderator would have to be contacted, register with their own email account, create a Zoom account, and coordinate the activation of the Host with them. And each time the chairperson (host) position rotates, the process would have to be started all over again. With our 40 meetings here, this would require a colossal amount of administration, not to mention for those areas with even more meetings.

Furthermore, we opted to have virtual hosts because it seemed to suit better our Traditions and the Spirit of our Fellowship. The only difference between being a Host or a normal participant is that you can remove or shut down another participant. In our physical meetings in Berlin, no such things are done, even if the Chair or Group Conscience might want to ask someone to wrap up or refrain from sharing, people will not be physically removed. So, according to us, Zoom Hosts are not needed as they would create a structure of power rather than service.

For meetings or groups that prefer to stay closed, it is also possible to create a public link and generate a password, with simple activation in the set ups of the meetings.

If in the regions where some people do not have internet access, it is possible to create access via phone. This would generate various phone numbers that you would need to share along with a meeting code that comes with them. The logic of posting all of them on our website does not make sense for us (if someone does not have internet access, how would they access the meeting’s information on the website?) and would probably be more confusing for people than a simple URL link.

The way we have worked is that we have set up all meetings in our area at once, and then reached out to all the meetings, through our Intergroup mailing list and Whatsapp groups, asking each group to give us the green light if they wanted to go online. That way, we could provide all the links in advance to the web administrator who was then updating the website with the pre-defined links as soon as each group has held a group conscience during an emergency business meeting. We have also emphasized that meetings could hold a steering committee based on all the members with a service position if it would help to answer in an emergency. Doing this has allowed us to move a good part of our forty-something meetings to online in a couple of days, and we have only provided this as a service for our meetings offered by our Intergroup, not as an obligation.

We hope this can be helpful to anyone looking to quickly provide their fellowship a continuity and stability without the possibility to meet face to face.

In service,

Adam and Cyril

Berlin Intergroup

(for questions, you can reach out to us at aa.pi.berlin@nullgmail.com)

 

Editor’s note: this article has been published in accordance with our ArenA Editorial Policy.