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* Whilst the following describes the general service structure in Great Britain (including its English speaking region in continental Europe), the structure in each overseas country differs in detail depending on local laws and how AA evolved there. Basic principles, however, as embodied in AA's Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts are shared throughout AA worldwide.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not organized in the formal or political sense. There are no governing officers, no rules or regulations and no dues or fees. The need for certain services for alcoholics (both within AA and those "still suffering" outside) has been apparent from the beginning of the Fellowship and it is these which form the basis for the service structure.
Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the still suffering alcoholic (Tradition 5).
At the time of writing there are approximately 4400 group meetings each week throughout the GB service structure. The whole focus of AA service is carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic and the group meeting is its main engine room, where alcoholics at all stages of recovery can share their experience, strength and hope.
Groups constitute the front line of AA service and the other tiers i.e. intergroups, regions and General Service Board are there to support the groups in an inverted pyramid structure. See below.
Meetings are run by a team of group members who take on the roles of secretary, treasurer, literature secretary, tea and coffee provider and greeters. groups are encouraged to appoint a Group Service Representative (GSR), generally with a proven track record in service, who coordinates service activity on behalf of the group.
GSRs from neighbouring groups within an area meet 4-6 (or more) times a year at the level of intergroup.
There are presently approximately 120 intergroups within the GB service structure.
As well as a chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and secretary each intergroup appoints a number of liaison officers who have a particular sphere of external service activity: public information, employment, prisons, health, probation, telephone (helpline), armed services and electronic communications (AA website and on-line response). Other liaison officers deal with internal AA matters including literature, AA periodicals (SHARE and Roundabout magazines) and archives.
Intergroups are able to coordinate resources and fund initiatives within their areas and to connect and consult with each other at regional level.
There are presently 15 regions on mainland Great Britain and one further region representing English speaking Continental Europe. Regional officers represent the same service disciplines as intergroups and provide a forum for discussion, exchange of information/best practice and an opportunity for initiatives which carry AA's message over a larger geographical area.
Trustees are selected from candidates nominated by the regions and from interested professionals (non-alcoholic trustees). At present there are 21 members of the General Service Board (GB) which meets regularly at the General Service Office in York and serves the Fellowship by providing central services of various types. In addition Trustees chair sub-committees in the service disciplines.
Consultation between groups, intergroups, regions and the General Service Board takes place on a regular basis at service forums and workshops as well as in the membership of the GSB sub-committees.
NB All positions in the AA service structure are taken on a fixed term basis to allow for rotation and renewal.
The General Service Conference is held annually in York where delegates from all regions gather. In a series of committees (comprising a representative from each region and GSB members) questions which have been submitted from members, groups, intergroups and regions earlier in the previous year are considered and responses drafted to reflect the collective conscience of AA-GB. Thus, guidelines are drafted, amended, ratified and then published throughout the Fellowship on an annual basis.
The governance of Alcoholics Anonymous in Great Britain is based on the voluntary instruments: The Twelve Traditions, The Twelve Concepts for World Service and the Charter for the General Service Conference.
The General Service Board is a registered charity. groups, intergroups and regions are recognised by the Charity Commissioners as informal, autonomous affiliated groups which have no independent constitution.
Over the years, Alcoholics Anonymous has affirmed and strengthened a tradition of being fully self-supporting and of not seeking, or accepting, contributions from non-members. When outside contributions are received at the General Service Office in York, they are returned with a note explaining AA's position on the question of self-support.
In Great Britain, the amount that may be contributed to the support of movement-wide services by any individual member is limited to £10,000 per annum. The exception being members legacies which are limited to one payment with a maximum limit of £10,000
Expenses at the group level for rental of meeting places, coffee and refreshments, literature, etc., are met by "passing the hat." In a majority of groups, an amount is set aside regularly for the support of AA world services.
All contributions are voluntary. Membership in AA involves no dues or fees. Similarly, all groups benefit from GSO activities, although not all groups contribute to GSO's support.
Income from the sale of Conference-approved books and other literature has always been an important factor in the support of GSO services, frequently insuring continuation of those services when contributions from the Fellowship were inadequate.