The Twelve Traditions make clear the principle that A.A. as such, should never be organized, that there are no bosses and no government in A.A. Yet at the same time, the Traditions recognize the need for some kind of organization to carry the message in ways that are impossible for the local groups – such as publication of a uniform literature and public information resources, helping new groups get started, publishing an international magazine, and carrying the message in other languages into other countries.
The U.S../Canada Conference* Structure is the framework in which these “general services” are carried out.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been called an upside-down organization because, as the below chart shows, the groups are on top and the trustees at the bottom.
Communication Through the Structure
Keeping a balance between ultimate authority and responsibility and the active, day-to-day functioning of world services means there must be constant communications among all elements of the structure.
The communication process starts with the group, which lets its group conscience-for or against change, approval or disapproval of a proposed action-be known to its elected General Service Representative (GSR). The GSR makes sure the group’s wishes are heard and fully considered at the District and Area levels, and that they are part of the Delegate’s thinking at the Conference. After each annual Conference, the GSR is responsible for making sure the group members are informed about what went on at the Conference and made aware of the full range of Advisory Actions.
Groups are organized into districts, collections of groups located near one another. The GSRs of these groups select District Committee Members (DCMs), who become part of the Area Committee.
The U.S./Canada Conference is divided into 93 Areas, made up of a state or province. At the Area Assembly, a Delegate is elected to represent the Area at the annual Conference meeting.
The Conference and the Delegate:
At the annual Conference meeting, matters of importance to the Fellowship as a whole are first considered and discussed by one of the standing Conference Committees, then brought to the full Conference in the form of Committee recommendations. All Conference members then have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the recommendations before they are voted on. Committee recommendations that are approved become Conference Advisory Actions.
After the Conference, the Delegate reports back to the Area, working through DCMs and group GSRs. At the same time, any Conference Advisory Actions that were referred to the Trustees are sent to either the appropriate Trustees’ committee, G.S.O., or the A.A. Grapevine for implementation.
Membership in the Conference consists of Area Delegates, Trustees, directors of A.A. World Services and the Grapevine, and A.A. staff members of the General Service Office and the Grapevine. Traditionally, Area Delegates make up at least two-thirds of the Conference body.
The General Service Board is made up of 21 Trustees. It meets quarterly, and its actions are reported to the Fellowship through quarterly reports and also in the Final Conference Report. The Board’s two operating corporations, A.A. World Services, Inc. and The Grapevine, Inc., report in the same way. A.A.W.S. is the corporation that employs G.S.O. personnel, directs G.S.O. services, and is responsible for book and pamphlet publishing. The Grapevine Corporate Board employs the magazine’s editorial and business staffs and publishes A.A.’s monthly magazine and related materials.
*Bills’s early vision was of a worldwide structure. However, the conference structures in countries outside of U.S./Canada evolved as autonomous entities.
The content presented here is from The A.A. Service Manual, S15-S17, Copyright A.A. World Services, Inc.