Concept Eleven

Concept 11:

The Admin Concept

Concept Eleven sets out in some detail the administrative principles by which the General Service Board delegates its operational duties and is the second most wordy of the concepts after Concept Twelve. What follows is a brief overview of the concept, in the main as it relates to the UK service structure

The basis for Concept 11 is that the trustees of the General Service Board cannot possibly carry out all the tasks necessary to keep our fellowship’s services running smoothly and therefore need a body of standing committees and staff that can “actively carry on these services.” This is the first part of the concept.

It follows that the people who make up these committees and the paid staff members who help them should be of the very highest calibre possible not least because these are the people who very often “form the visible image of world service” and “most AAs will measure our service values by what they see in them” but also because it is in fact these people that will be carrying on most of AAs services. Bill then sets four principles to guide the administration of these individuals. This is the second part of the concept.

It is easy to see why the General Service Board cannot directly carry out all the services for which it holds ultimate responsibility: it can only meet a certain number of times each year for instance and when not in session its work needs to carry on. Also, if the entirety of AA’s day to day service operations were to be discussed at each meeting of the GSB, it may very well last all year anyway! Therefore, the board appoints ‘standing’ or sub-committees to help it formulate and carry out service responsibilities.

These committees differ in make-up, number and name between the US and UK but the principles behind them are very much the same. Examples of UK sub committees are: Literature (reviewing/writing new literature), Nominations (making recommendations of new appointments to GSO or the GSB), Public Information and Finance. It is important to note that these sub-committees are not executive in nature but can make any recommendations they wish to the General Service Board.

These committees will often include AA members who have extensive experience in the relevant field and are normally chaired by a member of the General Service Board. Permanent GSO staff members may also be on these sub-committees. Once the committee has made its recommendations to the board and has been given the go ahead (where necessary with conference approval), the question is who will actually implement the policy and make it happen on a day-to-day basis?

This is of course the task of the permanent staff of the General Service Office, appointed by (through the nominations sub-committee) and answerable to the General Service Board, which in turn is accountable to Conference. Implementing policy, publishing and distributing Share and Roundabout Magazine and AA Service News, printing and distributing new and current literature, replying to mail and answering the telephones are just some of the day to day jobs that keeps the General Service Office up and running and serving our fellowship. And this of course is the second part of the concept.

Bill set out four guiding principles to guide the policy affecting our special workers, the first of which is “status of executives.” This principle states that you can never actively manage anything by board or committee and that any operational function must be headed up by one person only. This of course grants great authority to one person, so Bill goes to great lengths in here to explain that it is “the duty of the good executive, therefore, to learn discrimination of when he should act on his own” and when he should use “limited or wide consultation” or if he should “ask for specific definitions and directions.”

Secondly, and very importantly, Bill discusses pay for these workers. The old adage “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys” (sorry monkeys) is as true for AA as it is in any organisation. GSO staff should be compensated well for their endeavours.

Thirdly, and practiced to an extent in the UK, is the “rotation among paid staff workers.” Bills primary reasoning for this was for “the security and continuity of the office” and is the only principle in Concept Eleven which departs greatly from that engaged in normal corporate business. Over any considerable period of time, the staff at the General Service Office will gain experience of many its operational arms.

The fourth principle is the “full participation of paid workers.” Although not practiced fully in the UK, Bill thought it very desirable that staff members at GSO be given voting rights at conference, committee and board level. This however is not the only form of participation discussed in Concept Eleven. Bill also talks about treating “them in all respects as we would volunteers, people who are our friends and co-workers.” So we AA’s should treat paid workers with love and respect.

Concept Eleven is in many ways a concept about the principles of administration; the relationship between the trustees and their sub-committees that help them and the principles guiding the selection and administration of those that run our General Service Office. Of course, Bill puts it an awful lot better than I, so if I have managed anything at all, I hope it is to tempt you to read the concept in full.