Sunday, 24 December 2017

Service structure and back channels

The AA service structure is like a tree with each servant accountable to those he or she serves. For instance, national sub-committee members are accountable to the national sub-committee, which is accountable to the relevant board trustee, who is accountable to the general service board, which is accountable to conference, which is accountable to the delegates at conference, who are accountable to the regions, which are accountable to the intergroups, which are accountable to the general service representatives, who are accountable to the groups, which are accountable to the members.

Most problems in AA service are encountered when this structure is circumvented, and parallel structures are developed.


  • A national public information committee devising guidelines which it then tries to impose directly on groups without the guidelines having been commissioned by conference or the board trustee and without approval from the board or from the conference
  • Groups banding together to form sub-committees between themselves for public information work (in parallel with the integroup's public information work)
  • Groups banding together to sponsor conventions or conferences, outside the AA service structure (instead of having the event sponsored by an integroup or region and thus accountable to AA as a whole)
  • Free-standing conventions or conferences which are not accountable to the fellowship as a whole through the structure but which adopt the AA name
  • Other free-standing committees that are not commisioned by the fellowship as a whole through the service structure
  • Self-appointed committees of any sort
  • Any committee trying to be accountable in two directions at once (e.g. to intergroup and to groups directly or to region and to groups directly).

Another slew of problems arises when backchannels are used.

The way we decide everything in AA is in accordance with the Traditions and Concepts. We hold conscience meetings presided over by God, preferably preceded with a reading of the Traditions and Concepts, and maybe a prayer. The meeting is either of an AA group or of a committee (intergroup, region, conference, board, or sub-committee) that is properly constituted by election or appointment. The meeting has an agenda. This is forwarded at least one week in advance to allow time for thought, research, and discussion. The items are then discussed systematically, and with vote and substantial unanimity (Concept XII) determining the final outcome. This is then implemented, with reporting back to those the group or committee serves.

Examples of backchannels:
  • Internet discussion forums
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Email groups
  • Other discussion in small groups
Of course, a certain amount of discussion of principles and ideas in other contexts is valid, but this must never tip over into formal decision-making, consensus-forming, or other preparatory work that removes any part of the decision-making process from the supervision of God through the conscience of a properly constituted meeting.

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