I am working on Conference Material every day and preparing myself as best I can for my first experience as a delegate at the General Service Conference.
Your amazing and hardworking alternate delegate and I have been collaborating on the two-day pre-conference workshop coming up on Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, April 3rd. There will be 20 or so Agenda items with presentations and roundtables for each. I am looking forward to your group’s consciences and feedback.
We have received the English Agenda Backgrounds for the conference and we can expect the Spanish and French versions to be ready the first week in March.
I have met with the PRAASA Delegates Advisory Board. We are busy preparing for future PRAASA’s and making sure there are proper guidelines, minutes and history in place. As you know, we are hosting PRAASA in 2023. To register for PRAASA – praasa.org the program chair has almost completed program and the format is well done. I am sure it will be a great experience for everyone and this year, not only will I be reading our Area Highlights but I will be making a presentation on the P.I. Agenda item regarding developing a podcast. Area 05 usually has a dinner together at PRAASA on Friday night but because PRAASA begins in the evening on Friday, we will have a virtual dinner together on Saturday Night during the dinner break. DCM’s look for am email with the Zoom info so your GSR’s can attend.
We had our first “Meet With the Delegate” meeting on Feb 6th and it was a blast! I was honored and lucky to have several past delegates there with me to help out too. You should not forget that these Past Delegates have the history and knowledge of our Area in their heads and in even in documents. They are valued members of our Area with a lot to offer.
The next Meet With the Delegate meeting will be Saturday March 13th from Noon to 1:00 PM. Zoom Info will follow.
I attended the HWDCD meeting yesterday and they are getting organized and finding their way into the new panel. Jo Sun the new DCMC has stepped into some big shoes and is doing a good job to unite and organize the districts.
I attended the Third Legacy meeting yesterday too and there were some wonderful presentations by Districts, 13, 3 and 30. The third legacy meeting is the 3rd Saturday every month put on by District 4 and I highly recommend it.
The Chairperson of the AAWS Board, Beau B. sent a letter to all Delegates, Intergroups and Central Offices on February 4th encouraging our work and the work that has been done since we have been dealing with this pandemic. In an excerpt he wrote:
“As the pandemic pushed surges in binge drinking to new heights, our groups met the challenge head on and introduced a new generation of alcoholics to our program who have been sober for months now and have never even experienced an in-person meeting. The best is surely yet to come.
In the early months of 2020, many would not have imagined we could carry our message as fully, as far and as freely as we have online in the last 9-10 months. Some would have actively argued it could not be done. As a society, A.A. has never faced these challenges before. With no historical reference point for us to look to, after 85 years we faced a new pioneering period.
A.A. members everywhere responded, adapted, and met calamity with serenity. We are a resilient lot. We have seen clearly that the message of A.A. and the lifesaving experience of our membership need not be limited by time, space, or custom. We are held up by 36 spiritual principles in our Steps, Traditions, and Concepts that we can absolutely rely on to guide us through any uncertainty or challenge ahead.”
Alcoholics Anonymous will adapt!
David Rosen the Publishing Director sent out a letter this month to announce that as of January 14, 2021, A.A.W.S., Inc. has implemented enhanced ebook and audiobook distribution.
In it he says:
“Thanks to these efforts, A.A.W.S., Inc.-copyrighted ebooks and audiobooks will be available for purchase on the platforms where most ebook readers and audiobook listeners in the United States and Canada are accustomed to finding digital literature — platforms that serve libraries, educational institutions, professional portals, subscription services, and, notably, the National Corrections Library (NCL).
These vendors include 38 major ebook platforms as well as 13 major audiobook vendors.
I received a copy of the General Service Boards Strategic Plan Evaluation Summary from September 2020. To provide General Service Conference members an opportunity to provide input, thoughts, and ideas on the GSB Strategic Plan. A series of discussion sessions were held on September 16, 17, 23, 24. Invited participants included all Conference members. Trustee emeriti were also invited to participate.
And one of the reasons I’m sharing some of this report is so that you know that there is discussion going on, on these topics and to bring you in closer to the conference structure. These responses are from the 93 Area Delegates and past Trustees.
There were three goals mentioned:
- The GSB will model inclusivity and acceptance by assisting the Fellowship in carrying the message and encouraging the spirit of the Third Tradition throughout AA. “The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking”
In this discussion several questions were asked about inclusivity and the sum of the answers are as follows:
- Many members seemed to have different interpretations of the term inclusivity. “Inclusivity – does it mean diversity?”
- “The more we try to align and become diverse, the farther we get from our primary purpose. It is true that people from different cultural backgrounds may be treated differently.”
Some felt that inclusivity refers to the way we welcome newcomers and others said we are talking about the way the Fellowship handles race, gender,disabilities and even types of addiction, specifically narcotics.
- One repeated sentiment was that we might start with our Board to address concerns about inclusivity. At the very least, members said, the Board plays an important role:
- One member wondered “Should this even be a Board issue?”
- Another said that it’s “Not a Board issue, a Fellowship issue. ” And then: “AA itself is not inclusive.”
Many responses focused on the Fellowship’s relationship with the Spanish-speaking community and stated: “Intergroups reached out to the Spanish speaking community. They went to the groups and invited them to attend our meetings. Formed a relationship in that way. Get involved!!! GSB needs to include Native American/Handicapped.”
There were questions regarding “Who Is Not In the Room
- One person described the Fellowship as “Heavily White”
- Another stated that “We are trying to reach all alcoholics no matter their background.”
- And “No one would argue with Tradition 3/Concept 4 — “anybody who needs us can find us.
- Making an even sharper observation, one member stated that “Bill had trouble getting Black attendees, use Language of the Heart.”
So. This is not a new issue, but it is one that seems to need solving, not only with color but also with accessibility.
A significant number of attendees mentioned the degree to which they think this issue is affecting the Fellowship:
- One pointed out that “Leadership is needed — inclusivity is a topic that can be polarizing but we should not be afraid of that. It should be framed around our primary purpose.”
- On the other hand, could this kind of “division” be what our various communities want? 8:07
As was the case throughout the discussion sessions, instead of stating solutions, members asked questions, like :
- “Are there physical items to address the physical barriers?” and
- “Why aren’t we seeing deaf people in the rooms? When they get to the meetings there is nothing there for them (no translation). You don’t go to the desert to find water.
- How can we reach this population?”
Some people who responded offered workable approaches:
- “Especially when looking for appointees to committees. Look for minority voices on the board, area, and district levels. We need to invite all — especially the underrepresented.”
- Another noted, “Need to implement a meta conversation — we can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge.”
- And still another noted that “more languages on website” could be helpful.
And here is an answer that might generate controversy in the Fellowship:
- “There should be affirmative action in selection of members of the board to ensure greater inclusivity and to recognize the implicit bias.”
From the 135 attendees, there were 19 Indefinable responses to this question:
If you believe further actions are not warranted (or that current actions are inappropriate), please explain.
- The Fellowship seems to be of one accord when it comes to the issue of inclusivity. Wrong.
There were people who responded who do not hold that view, with 11 of them expressing their sentiments: For instance, one asked
“Should this even be a Board issue?”
Another wondered if this would cause “Outside issues [to]come into groups”
Another respondent wondered, “Should the question be How do we get them here rather than who is not in the room?”
And getting back to what inclusivity really means, this member stated that “Not really talking about minorities, more about making newbies comfortable.”
Goal 3: The GSB will seek to improve the effectiveness of its communication to remain relevant and connected to those it serves.
Many A.A.s love the new technologies and say that “GSB is doing a good job at looking at different platforms within traditions.” But as is our custom, contrary views claimed a place in the spotlight.
- “A. has been slow to embrace technology” and
- “Folks who have left their home group may feel uncomfortable with electronics” indicate some displeasure with the Fellowship’s handling of communications.
- They also wonder, AND THIS IS SOMETHING I’D LIKE OUR DCM’S TO HEAR AND DISCUSS WITH THEIR DISTRICTS: “There are 3,000 meetings in the area but only 100 are represented at the area meeting. How do we get the information to the remaining 2,000 groups?”
One person pointed out that
- “transparency is more important than language,”
- another said, “communication breaks down at DCM level,”
- and yet another: the“GSB has lost touch with pulse of Fellowship, using virtual platforms can help.”
- And “A. has been slow to embrace technology” seems to be the feeling of many. Dramatically different new technology. Same old issues.
- One person made a point that must always stay with our communicators, especially those bringing in the new technologies:
- “How do we reach members who don’t use social media?” There did not appear to be one answer to that question in all the 149 responses.
Or consider this question:
“What about communication outside the service structure?
How do we connect to those members?”
Question: COVID-19 has pushed the Fellowship much farther along in its use of social platforms to carry the message. How can we capitalize on this shared experience of utilizing technology to further improve the effectiveness of our communication?
It’s safe to say that “COVID allowed individuals to cross the line into technology.” But the following response might be the way we will deal with post-COVID A.A. sessions:
- “Keep Zoom and online even when back in person” and “link between trustee committees and conference committees.”
- Goal #6 covers two issues: Anonymity and the function of Class As. The issue of anonymity, always the foundation of our Fellowship, is a serious and growing concern.
The second issue is Class A trustees.
Focus group responses indicate that
- Class A members are a treasured asset the Fellowship has not made good use of, and in today’s environment, many delegates say their function is desperately needed. Take Class As along with today’s new platforms and then add the ability of Class As to state the A.A. case without worries of anonymity — respondents seem to agree that, utilized properly, this combination will establish a powerful way to spread the A.A. message.
- The function of the Class A trustee has a rich history in Alcoholics Anonymous, hailing from the Fellowship’s earliest days. As one respondent put it, “ ‘Friends of AA — we let our friends recommend us.’ Do we have as many friends now as when that was written? Will we get another Jack Alexander moment?”
- What is the Class A position? What is its function? Among our members, there may be some confusion, or, as one respondent put it, “What are the Class A’s responsibilities to the fellowship? What do the Class A’s do? We need a service piece that describes their role.”
The Fellowship wants to know more and hear more from Class A trustees. Consider these replies:
- What is a Class A trustee? A Class A trustee is a non- alcoholic trustee. The A.A. website says that “Class A trustees are chosen from a variety of professional backgrounds including doctors, lawyers, financial professionals, clergy, media and public relations professionals, information technology and communications professionals, correctional administrators, social workers, educators and military professionals.”
- “Podcast/videos” where “Class A’s can show their faces.” This widely held position supports the respondents who say, “We hide behind the word promotion — we need to take action to be discovered” and “ We need to get out there.”
To sum up, according to the evaluations offered by the focus groups, A.A. must contend with the challenges of new technology. And then, everyone wants to know, how will our Fellowship function in this new society?
DCM’s please make sure to disseminate all information from the Area sends you. Your GSR’s are begging for information to give to their groups.
Our Pre-Conference is an opportunity to have your group’s conscience heard on any agenda items, for you to participate in roundtables and be heard and to learn how the structure of General Service works.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Pre-Conference