12 concepts explained
The First Concept of The Twelve Concepts is that:
"Final responsibility and ultimate authority for A.A. world services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole Fellowship."
---The A.A. Service Manual combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service by Bill W.
The structure for AA is all designed to provide that the direction taken by AA is that of the group conscience of the whole fellowship, not the dictates of a few.
Individual AA members come together to form Groups. Groups are arranged in Districts, and Districts are arranged in Areas. There are generally several Areas in a State. Several states are arranged in each Region. AA in the United States and Canada is under the General Service Boad. The United States and Canada send two delegates to the World Service Board that has world-wide responsibility.
Groups elect GSR's (General Service Representatives) which attend District meetings. The GSR's in a District elect a DCM (District Committee Member) to lead the District meetings and to represent the District at meetings of the Area Committees. Meetings of GSRs in an Area are called Assemblies. Area Assemblies send delegates to the AA-wide General Service Conferences that are held every two years. The General Service Conference determines matters of AA policy, and the General Service Board operates the day-to-day business of AA.
The Second Concept of AA is:
"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 world affairs."---The A.A. Service Manual combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service by Bill W., 1997-1998 Edition
When AA was first starting, Dr. Bob and Bill W. had extensive responsibility and authority over how AA was set up and operated. In St. Louis in 1955 at the General Service Conference, this was placed with AA groups which delegated their authority to the Conference through their selection of chosen representatives who are fully empowered to speak and act for them. As Bill W. says, "[T]he principle of amply delegated authority and responsibility to 'trusted servants' must be implicit from the top to the bottom of our active structure of service. This is the clear implication of A.A.'s Tradition Two." (The A.A. Service Manual, p. 10).
AA's Third Concept of World Service is that:
"As a traditional means of creating and maintaining a clearly defined working relation between the groups, the Conference, the A.A. General Service Board and its several service corporations, staffs, committees and executives, and of thus insuring their effective leadership, it is here suggested that we endow each of these elements of world service with a traditional "Right of Decision"The A.A. Service Manual combined with Twleve Concepts for World Service, 1997-8 edition, p. 13-16
The First Concept established that the responsibility and authority for AA world services resided in the collective membership of AA. The Second Concept established that the membership through the groups delegated that authority to the AA General Service Conference. In this Third Concept, the various Boards, corporations (e.g., Grapevine), staffs, and committees are given the right to decide which problems they will dispose of themselves and upon which matters they will report, consult, or ask specific directions.In practice this concept means that AA's "trusted servants" ought to carefully weigh the wishes of the members, but that they are also trusted to exercise their own judgment in the light of all circumstances, facts and arguments that become known to them during the voting or deliberation process.
The Fourth Concept of World Service provides that "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." The A.A. Service Manual, Combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service, by Bill W., 1997-8 Ed. In this Concept, AA provides that all groups within AA should be given a right to participate in the affairs of AA. This Concept provides not only that groups of alcoholics be permitted to participate, but also that staffs that include nonalcoholics should also be permitted the right to vote in proportion to the responsibility they discharge. This insures that every skilled element needed to make informed decision have a right to participate and provides a voice for people with knowledge of how things operate day-to-day.
Concept 5 of the Twelve Concepts of World Service reads:"Throughout our world service structure, a traditional "Right of Appeal" ought to prevail, thus assuring us that majority opinion will be heard and that petitions for the redress of personal grievances will be carefully considered."Under this concept, all minorities are encouraged to file minority reports whenever they feel a majority to be in considerable error. Even when the minority may be partially or entirely in error, they perform a valuable service by compelling a thourough debate on important issues. They are our chief protection against an uninformed, misinformed, hasty or angry majority
The Sixth Concept of the Twelve Concepts for World Service is that:
"The Conference recognizes that the chief initiative and active responsibility in most world service matters should be executed by the trustee members of the Conference acting as the General Service Board."
Just as the groups must as a practical matter delegate much of their authority to the Conference, so the Conference must delegate much of its authority to the Trustees; otherwise the Trustees would be unable to act in the absence of the Conference. In essense, AA operates like a corporation with the groups being stockholders who elect Delegates who act on their behalf at the "Annual Meeting" or Conference. The General Service Board Trustees are essentially the directors of the "holding company" that owns and controls the subsidiaries that actually carry on much of the work of AA.
The Seventh Concept of the Twelve Concepts of World Service states that::
"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.."
This concept at first appears to set up a conflict -- the trustees are given full legal authority, but the concept acknowledges that without the backing of the Conference and through it the funds and support of the local groups, the trustees could not, as a practical matter, go completely off on their own.
The Eighth Concept of World Service provides, in it short form that:
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."
This concept continues the defining of responsibilities and authority begun in the earlier concepts. It limits the role of the Trustees in the A.A. Grapevine, Inc. and A.A. World Services, Inc. to the kind of oversight achieved by electing the directors of those independent entities, but essentially discouraging them from playing day-to-day roles as active administrators or executives of those companies.
Concept Nine of the Twelve Concepts for World Service states, in its short form:
"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.
At first blush, this might seem to be at odds with the Twelfth Tradition that reminds us to place principles before personalities. However, it recognizes the fact that AA members will permit themselves to be lead but they do not generally suffer being told what to do. As Bill Wilson said, it is like we are saying to our leaders, "Act for us, but don't boss us." If AA is to survive to be able to help more suffering alcoholics, it is imperative that we all find and support the very best General Service Representatives ("GSR's") -- after all, they are the ones who select District Committee Members ("DCM's") and who ultimately select Delegates to the Conference.
The Tenth Concept of World Service states, in its short form:"Every service responsibility should be matched by an equal service authority, with the scope of such authority well defined."This concept is the principle that underlies some of the earlier concepts relating to the groups having the ultimate authority but then having that authority being delegated ultimately to the Conference and then to the Trustees, but with the delegation of authority always being accompanied by a clear statement of the scope of authority and responsibility.
The Eleventh Concept of World Service, in short form, states as follows::
"The trustees should always have the best possible committees, corporate service directors, executives, staffs, and consultants. Composition, qualification, induction procedures, and the rights and duties will always be matters of serious concern."
This concept recognizes that the trusted servants who work for the various AA entities need to be carefully selected because they will have the most day-to-day contact with members and others interested in AA. The Twelve Concepts of World Service specifically mentions the nominating, budgetary, public information, literature and general policy committees as requiring people with very specific skills and outlooks.
The Twelfth Concept of World Service, in its short form, states as follows:
"The Conference shall observe the spirit of AA. 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."
In its long form, the Twelfth Concept is actually Article 12 of the Conference Charter. It is considered so important that it can be changed only by written consent of three-quarters vote of the directory-listed AA groups, and then only after six months has been allowed for deliberation.