Young Persons Liaison Officer Starter Pack
Starter Information for Intergroup Officers
- Offering guidance to young people newly in AA
- Encouraging and supporting young members of AA into service and to develop their service
- Ensuring that the voice of young people in AA is heard at all levels of the service structure
- Carrying the AA message to young people outside AA who have not yet had their chance to recover
- Supporting other members of AA in carrying the message outside AA by providing them with young AAs to give talks and attend presentations
Welcome to all YPLOs
I’m so glad you’ve decided to take up young people’s service at Intergroup level. This guide is designed to offer information to help you get off to a productive start.
The guidance in this pack is based on the service and structure handbooks and the experience of one YPLO / RYPLO who has performed service at Intergroup level for two-and-a-half years. It makes no claim to be authoritative. It is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. As described, its intention is to provide incoming YPLOs with information to help them get going in their role.
If you find elements of it useful, please make use of them; anything that is not useful, please disregard. If you have comments or suggestions that you think could improve this starter pack, please contact the Young Person's subcommittee. We would be delighted to hear from you!
Based on the AA Service Handbook, YPLOs have five primary functions:
- To offer guidance to young people newly in AA
- To encourage and support young members of AA into service and to develop their service
- To ensure that the voice of young people in AA is heard at all levels of the service structure
- To carry the AA message to young people outside AA who have not yet had their chance to recover
- To support other members of AA in carrying the message outside AA by providing them with young AAs to give talks and attend presentations
I take this passage from the chapter ‘A Vision For You’ as a guide:
“So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore. Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion, more than half of those approached will become fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has had his opportunity to recover – if he can and will.”
Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 163 - 164
Identify and attend meetings at which to carry the message
- I identify meetings in my area that young people attend. This could be specific Young People’s meetings, or regular AA meetings with young members attending. I do this by asking young people I already know which meetings they recommend.
- I put in my calendar to attend, mention to friends or sponsees that I’m going and invite them to join me. (All this helps me to follow through and stick to my plan.) I show up early and try to speak to any young people there, and I plan to go for fellowship after, if fellowship exists.
Before the meeting
- If I speak to a young member who is new, I may mention that I can connect them with other young people in the area. In my phone, I add the words “Young Person” or the code “YP” to young AA contacts, so that I can quickly find them when I need to. I seek to match people by age, age of arrival in AA, gender, and any other demographic connection. For example, if I meet a young newcomer woman of nineteen, I will offer to connect her with a young AA whom I know came in in her teens. If I meet a young newcomer male who’s studying for a PhD, I will try and match him to an established young AA member who has also has experience of being newly sober and studying.
- If it’s a meeting I know and the person is new, I may briefly mention to them the format of the meeting to put them at ease. I may say that they will be invited to introduce themselves, and may wish to do so, but need not if they don’t want. Maybe I’ll get them a cup of tea and introduce them to anyone helpful I know in the room. The goal is to make them feel welcome and relaxed.
During the meeting
- I will try to share, with the intention of carrying the message of recovery.
- If appropriate, I may seek to mention the age I came in (twenty-seven) and how I believed I was too young for AA before I arrived. I may mention how AA defied my expectations. Sometimes I talk about how I still hang out with my old drinking buddies and still go to pubs and bars when I’ve got a reason to. I may mention that I’ve made a load of new friends as well as improving my relationships with the old ones.
At the end of and after the meeting
- In the announcements section, I stand up and may say something like this:
“I’m Nico, I’m an alcoholic. I’m the Young Persons Liaison Officer for this region. If you’re new to AA and consider yourself young or would like some guidance, I can point you towards Young People’s meetings in the area, social-media groups for young people, young people’s conventions and I can link you up with other young people around here. In case your wondering, a young person in AA is anyone who got sober under 30, irrespective of their age now. Talk to me after the meeting if you want more information.”
- When the meeting is over, I usually ask my Higher Power to show me who I can be helpful to and go over to them and speak. I may encourage them to come for fellowship or ask them how they found the meeting.
What usually happens?
Occasionally, no one comes up to me after a meeting where I make an announcement like this. In that case, I am pleased to have made my demonstration and to have carried my message. Who knows what effect it may have under the radar, or what result it may produce further down the line?
More often, at least one person comes up to me to ask about young people’s groups and options, which I then briefly outline. Usually, I will take their number and add them to my phone with the code YP NC so that I can find them easily in the future. As relevant, I can put them in touch with other young people that I know already. I’ll invite them to come with us for fellowship and make sure they are taken care of. As I see fit, I may follow them up with a text or call later in the week, but I’ve been taught not to chase.
As well as attending meetings myself, I ask GSRs at my intergroup to look out for young newcomers and point them in my direction, and to announce on my behalf that I am available to guide young people new to AA. looking for young people to help me in my service work. I have been put in touch with a number of young newcomers in this way, whom I have been able to help.
We’d love to know what other people are doing to help guide young people when they first arrive in AA! Please get in touch with the YP Subcommittee with your ideas.
Again, I will go to the meetings where young people are.
Before the meeting
- I seek to speak to young members.
- If they’ve been around a while, I may ask what service they are doing and how this is going.
- If appropriate, I ask them what service they are considering taking up next. Often people haven’t thought about it. I sometimes say that, as my length of sobriety time grew, I found that I needed to take on more demanding service to make sure I’m being stretched.
- You can ask them what their homegroup is and if their homegroup has a GSR. If they don’t have a homegroup, I may talk about how important a homegroup is to me. I will sometimes say what the role of GSR entails.
- If they lack confidence about AA service, sometimes I ask if they have a service sponsor. Often, the concept of a service sponsor is a new one and so I explain what that is and how it has helped me.
- If appropriate, I may ask if they have considered taking up service at intergroup and outline my experience of intergroup. I may ask them where they live or work or go to meetings and tell them which intergroups might be good options for them. If they are interested, I can connect them with officers at those intergroups and give them the date and location of the next intergroup meeting. (Clearly, this entails me knowing the intergroups in my region.)
During the meeting
- Service is part of my message of recovery, so I often use some of my sharing time to mention AA service that I’ve done and how I believe it has aided my spiritual awakening and keeps me sober.
- I may mention specific projects, or simply how I revert to service tasks sometimes when I’m becoming self-obsessed, as a good way of distracting myself from myself.
At the end of and after the meeting
- In the announcements section, I stand up and may say something like this:
“I’m Nico and I’m the Young Persons Liaison Officer for this region.”
“Part of my role is to offer to young people guidance in their service journey within and beyond group level. At group level, have you wondered about becoming and GSR but don’t know what it involves? Do you want to take a secretary role, but are a bit nervous about taking it on? I may be able to help.”
“Beyond group level, we have loads of opportunities to be of service. For instance, I can add you to the twelfth step list for the area, so that if a young person calls up, you can get the chance to meet them and take them to their first meeting.”
“I can also set you up to reach out to schools and universities where we do talks and presentations about AA to pupils and students, or link you up with other AA officers doing similar work. For instance, we could get you into Pentonville prison to do a talk or helping at a health fair for trainee nurses.”
“Speak to me after the meeting for further details.”
What usually happens?
Again, sometimes no one comes up to me afterwards, but more often than not, at least one person asks me for more information. I give them the information they seek and take their details as appropriate.
I’d love to hear from other YPLOs about how you help encourage young members to take up service and develop their service offering.
As well as attending meetings myself, I ask GSRs at my intergroup to look out for young people who may wish to grow their service and to announce on my behalf that I am available to guide young people in their service journey. I have been put in touch with a number of young member in this way, some of whom have gone on to take up service.
What is the Service Structure?
First I need to know what the service structure is. The diagram below describes the inverted pyramid that is the AA Service Structure.
The AA Service Structure - the "inverted pyramid"
The idea of this structure is that the groups are at the top and each layer below serves and supports the one above it. Hence, as a Regional YPLO I am a leader, but my role is to lead by serving the Intergroup YPLOs and not by governing (Tradition 2). When I was an Intergroup YPLO, my role was to serve the groups, and I was supported by my Regional YPLO in doing this.
How can I make sure the voice of young people is represented?
The main way for me to represent the voice of young people at any level is for me to be in the place where that level meets. This means, in the first instance, at formal business meetings. When I was an intergroup YPLO, this meant attending intergroup. Now, as a regional YPLO, this means at regional committee meetings and regional assemblies. But representing young people at all levels in the structure doesn’t mean only at formal business meetings; it also means at events put on by the structure, including workshops, and public information initiatives. Hence, I make a point of attending service workshops and seek to speak at them, as well as providing young people to support other PI initiatives.
Intergroup and Region
Scheduling and Attendance
I find out the dates of the next meetings for the twelve months ahead and put them in my calendar. I do my very best not schedule other commitments in those times. I seek to book holidays around these meetings. Sometimes, this is inconvenient. Sometimes, it means loss of earnings.
At the table
When at the table, I seek to make sure that young people are represented. I do this in a few ways.
- I try to keep myself informed about the views of young people in my area, by talking to them regularly, attending meetings they attend, and asking their views. I am ready to voice these views, even if they are not my own. This is part of my advocacy role.
- When in the room, I try actively to think about how people under thirty, and especially still suffering alcoholics, might respond to what is being proposed, and allow this to inform my contribution.
- I exercise my right of participation and voice my views in discussions. Usually, this is pleasant and straightforward. Sometimes, issues arise that are contentious. When there are differences of opinion and I fear my point of view may be unpopular, I ask for the courage to speak, and not be cowed into silence. I regard learning to carry a message even when I feel uncomfortable about how it may be received as being part of my recovery. I learn to outgrow fear. I seek to be courteous, co-operative, constructive and polite. I try and speak no more loudly than is necessary for me to be heard. Wherever possible, I seek to add to discussion, rather than to disagree, but where disagreement is unavoidable, I am willing to state my different point of view. I try to use phrases such as “It is my understanding that” rather than “This is how it is” when introducing points of procedure or received practice; or I try to say “I agree with everything that has been said” before going on to add additional points, rather than run the risk of it seeming as though my point represents a disagreement, when it does not. I find that this language is constructive.
- I inform myself about the Traditions and Concepts. This can seem daunting. It can also be hard to know how the Traditions and Concepts, which can seem abstract, are to be applied in practice. To overcome this, I speak regularly to my service sponsor and we discuss issues within the framework of the Traditions and Concepts. I run through questions with my service sponsor before meetings, so that I can have thought them through ahead of time. I also listen out for how more experienced service members apply the Traditions and Concepts in practice. I use my critical thinking skills in applying the Traditions and Concepts to problems that arise. I recognise that I can feel intimidated by some personalities and emotionally blackmailed by others. I seek to put principles ahead of both. I refer to the Twelve Concepts Illustrated and The Twelve Concepts Checklist for reminders about these. I attend workshops on the Concepts as well as Traditions meetings.
- I seek to be informed of what is on the agenda ahead of the meeting, so that I can respond and not react to it. If no agenda has been published, I may ask the secretary for one.
- I try to file written reports before meetings, so that my the work of the Young People in AA is taken into account.
Another key way I can help ensure that the voice of young people is represented at all levels of the service structure is by encouraging other young people to take up service within the structure and offering them guidance and service sponsorship in their roles.
If there are ways that you use to ensure the voice of young people is heard through the AA structure, I’d love to hear about them.
In my view, this is a major aspect of the role.
- In the first instance, at groups I attend, I announce the goal of carrying the message to outside organisations, especially schools and universities, and ask if people have contacts at such institutions that they can put me in touch with.
- I will then seek to contact those organisations and offer them information about AA. This has led to discussions with members of staff, or presentations to students or pupils.
- In carrying out this service, I seek to collaborate with other AA officers.
5. Supporting other members of AA in carrying the message outside AA by providing them with young AAs to give talks and attend presentations
- I identify the officers at my intergroup who are engaged in Public Information, for example the Public Information Officer, or the Health and Employment Liaison Officers and offer them my contact information and the option of providing them with younger members of AA to speak at or help at events that they are organising.
- I keep a list of Young People who are eligible and willing to do service, and who have given me permission to pass on their information to AA officers.
YP info table at a well-being event in the City of London
The RYPLO supports YPLOs at the Intergroups across the region (there are eleven intergroups in London Region North), and fills in where intergroups have no YPLO. Many RYPLOs were previously a YPLOs at Intergroup level.
The Regional YPLO’s responsibilities include:
- Encouraging, assisting, supporting, and providing information and guidance to intergroup YPLOs in performing their service
- Coordinating activities across the region where necessary, for instance when a university has multiple campuses
- Collating information from you and reporting it to the Region, National Subcommittee, and AA Board
- Holding region-wide info, such as lists of young people able to perform 12th Step work
- Helping to ensure that the voice of young people is heard at regional level
- Providing young AAs to assist at PI talks organised by other officers
- Keep in regular contact and be willing to take guidance
- Attend quarterly meetings with other YPLOs
- File a written report of what actions you’ve taken since since the previous meeting
Many intergroups have a PI committee, of which the YPLO should be a member. Ask your intergroup Chair if there is a PI committee and ask any PI officers if you can collaborate with them on your PI outreach.
- Send to AA General Service Office (GSO) an update form with your contact information for the AA Confidential Directory. This Directory is used to allocate AA email addresses and so you need to be listed in it in order to get an AA email address. Listing in the Directory also allows other elected AA officers to see that you are in role and to contact you on the contact information you provide. A copy of the update form is available from the Document library; go to Forms → then click on "Intergroup and Region Officer Registration Form.docx"
- Next, apply for your AAmail email address. Use this link: AA Email Address Online Request Form It’s good to have an AA email address as it makes you seem more professional to outside organisations and can preserve your personal anonymity. It also facilitates continuity between officers: once you rotate out, the incoming person can use the same address.
- Understanding the Role: what does it involve and what’s been done so far
- Find out if there was a YPLO at your Intergroup before you. If so, contact them, and ask for a handover. If not, you have the privilege of establishing the role.
- Read pages 73 and 74 in the AA Service handbook on the Young Persons’ Liaison Role. Document available on the Document library. Go to Handbooks → then click on the latest AA Service Handbook for Great Britain document
- Once you have your AA email address, you can request access to the Confidential Directory using the AA Helpdesk form: Set the Topic field to "General Questions", and type something like "I wish to obtain access to the confidential directory", providing your AA email address in the Email field.
- Call the Regional YPLO, who is elected to support you as an Intergroup YPLO and coordinate between Intergroup YPLOs. Their number should be in the Confidential Directory.
Find yourself a service sponsor. A service sponsor is someone who is experienced doing service within the AA service structure (Intergroup, Region, Conference, etc.) and who is able to guide you in accordance with the Twelve Steps and Twelve Concepts. This could be your normal AA sponsor, or your Regional YPLO officer, or someone else.
During the announcements part of AA meetings, in your intergroup area and elsewhere, announce yourself as the YPLO for your intergroup and briefly state that you are available to guide young people in their early days in AA, and to help members to get involved in service. Say that they can speak to you after the meeting, especially if they want to get involved in carrying the message to young people and 12th stepping young people.
Create a list of young people you know who are available to do service. Share this list with me, so that we have centralised data. Service opportunities include:
- Peopling stalls at university welfare and freshers’ events
- Talks at schools and universities
- Talks to members of staff at institutions that serve young people
- Twelfth stepping young people who ring the AA helpline
- Make a list of young people’s institutions you have a personal connection to and that you may be able to contact. For instance, did you attend university or school in London? Share this info with me and I can help facilitate making possible contact.
- Unilaterally contacting organisations without consulting the Intergroup in the relevant area first.
- Taking new actions without running them past your service sponsor or Region YPLO first.
If in doubt, ask your Regional YPLO.
- Identify young people who seem to be at a loss newly in AA and link them up to other young people / direct them to young people’s meetings / befriend them.
- Create a list of young people who can do service in your area. Invite them to your intergroup or share your experience of doing group level service. Encourage them in their service journey.
- Identify institutions in your intergroup area that encounter young people, e.g. schools, universities, youth groups, charities. (Google maps zoomed in, government databases, walking around are all good methods.)
- Make a database, or table to record your information. (Google sheets works well.)
- Prepare to contact them by familiarising yourself with telephone scripts and email templates. (Available in the links below.)
- Get a literature budget from your intergroup and then place a literature order. (Note: it can be sometimes more than two weeks for a literature order to arrive, so place orders in advance of when you need the materials.)
- Run your plan past your RYPLO and / or service sponsor.
- Start contacting Young People’s institutions.
- Keep a record of your actions, including who you spoke to and what the outcome was.
- Follow up as necessary / twice a year / annually.
- Report your actions to the RYPLO and at the quarterly meetings of YPLOs in your Region.
The Regional YPLO will arrange a meeting, once per quarter, for the YPLOs in the Region to meet together. At this meeting the following can be done:
- Update each other on what actions have been taken – a written report is preferred
- Share experience of what has worked / hasn’t worked
- Coordinate next actions
- Ensure that key information is up-to-date
- Improve knowledge and understanding of applying the Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts in practice
PI Public Information
‘Public Information (PI) in AA means carrying the message of recovery to the still suffering alcoholic by informing the general public about the AA programme. We do this by getting in touch with the media managers, Welfare Officers in industry and the Trades’ Unions, Schools and indeed any organisation of a public nature whether it be organised or voluntary, which is in a position to pass on the knowledge of the existence of AA and what it can do for the still suffering alcoholic.
‘This includes giving talks to doctors, nurses, social services, police, magistrates, community groups, business groups, schools, colleges and trade and professional unions and associations. Open and public meetings, exhibitions, displays, posters, newspapers, magazines, radio and television also come under the heading of PI.
‘Experience has shown that intergroup and regions are the bodies that can most usefully discuss PI matters and from which one or more PI committees can be formed.’ Service Handbook, p. 18
Public Information Officer:
a service position at group, intergroup and region
The PI officer is elected by their group, intergroup or region to carry AA’s message to all those organizations that are not being covered by sector-specific officers, i.e. those organizations that do not come under Health, Prisons, Probation, Employment, Armed Services or Young People. At intergroup level, a PI officer will typically coordinate with these other officers, take on tasks for which these officers don’t have capacity, or where an officer role is vacant. At group level, the PI officer will cover these areas themselves. If a list of organizations in the local area doesn’t already exist, PI officers will usually draw one up, and set about contacting them by phone, email, and in person, to offer literature, and to speak to staff about AA. A PI officer will often also recruit volunteers from the local meetings to deliver talks and help with making contacts. The Regional PI Officer supports the intergroup PI officers by helping them coordinate their activity, by offering experience and advice, and by taking responsibility for region-wide organizations that cross intergroup boundaries.
An intergroup is comprised of ‘GSRs – Group Service Representatives – from all AA groups within specific areas, [who] meet together in order that they may coordinate local activities such as public information, telephone and prison services.’ Structure Handbook, p. 5
Intergroups typically meet once every two months, where they elect officers who carry out the intergroup’s functions and where these officers report back on their activity. As well as a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, these officers include a PI Officer, as well Health, Prisons, Probation, Employment, Armed Services and Young People’s Liaison Officers. Any alcoholic may attend intergroup, but right to vote on matters is reserved to GSRs of participating groups and elected officers. The main functions of Intergroup are to arrange insurance cover for the groups in the intergroup area, coordinate PI activities through a PI officer and other designated officers, and receive money from groups, which is passed down to region. Intergroups may create subcommittees to oversee conventions or other activities that should be coordinated between groups.
Young Person’s Liaison Officer
a service position at Intergroup and Region level
YPLOs are elected by their intergroup or region to carry AA’s message to organizations that encounter young alcoholics. A Young Person in AA is ‘someone who came into AA at the age of 30 or younger, and so will have experience of getting sober at a young age, the better to relate to the particular problems faced by young people seeking to live sober…YPLOs will work closely with other service officers, in particular those in Public Information,’ to help carry the message of recovery to young alcoholics.
YPLOs may invite young members of AA in their intergroup area to collaborate with them in carrying the message. The YPLO will typically draw up a list of institutions to contact – particularly schools, universities, and youth organisations – and set about making contact via email, telephone, and in person, offering to send AA literature, and to talk to staff members, as well as the young people themselves, about what AA is and how it may be able to help. They will then typically assign young AA members to give talks, have a presence at welfare events, and talk to staff.
An assembly of intergroup representatives covering a geographical area
AA Great Britain (including English Speaking Continental Europe) is divided into sixteen geographical areas, called ‘regions’. A region is ‘an assembly of neighbouring intergroups…in a convenient geographical location with common internal and external interests.’ Structure Handbook p. 91
The aims of each region are:
Structure Handbook, pp. 91 – 92
London Region North (LRN)
the assembly of intergroup representatives covering North London
London Region North, or simply ‘Region’, is used to refer to the Committee, Assembly, and subcommittees of London Region North, which supports eleven intergroups.
This document is based on the 2020-11-28 YPLO Starter Guide, by Nico P.