On October 23, 1993, two presentations were made to the General Service Board by two Regional Trustees'; one from the Northeast Region and the other from the Southwest Region. They were the pro's and con's of 'Separately Incorporating GSO." Southwest Regional Trustee and AAWS Chairman (when presentation was written in 1993) An interesting aside: Just two years prior, this Trustee voted for Michael Alexander's proposal. The second presentation, the pro side of separately incorporating GSO is as follows:
What I propose is the incorporation of the General Service Office as a third wholly owned entity of the General Service Board. This is not a new idea as similar reorganizing actions have been proposed and discussed in the past. This proposal should not be confused with the proposal presented at the General Service Conference in 1992. That proposal, that a committee of Trustees directly manage GSO/AAWS on an experimental basis for nine months. That proposal was perceived as contrary to the Eighth Concept by that Conference and the proposal was defeated.
The formation of a new corporation by the General Service Board is allowed under its By-Laws. I quote, "The General Service Board may set up new corporate bodies to serve the purposes of Alcoholics Anonymous, provided the General Service Board shall own all of the capital stock of such corporate bodies, and if such corporate body is a membership corporation....The General Service Board is expected to refrain from forming any new corporation if a majority of the Conference Delegates shall disapprove of its formation."
Our inventories, taken as a result of the Theme of the 1993 General Service Conference, "AA Takes Its Inventory-The General Service Conference Structure" seems to have one common thread running through it and that is communication or the lack thereof. In the Ninth Concept, Bill W. states, "Good leadership cannot function well in a poorly designed structure. But weak leadership can hardly function at all, even in the best of structures." Assuming then our leadership is adequate to the need, we must look to the structure.
I doubt that Bill W., even with his magnificent vision, could have foreseen the complexities that would be visited on A.A. World Services, Inc. However, Bill did warn, in Concept VIII, "Whenever we concentrate money, we shall inevitable create the temptation for the exercise of too much executive authority. We should strenuously avoid placing too much money or too much authority in any one service entity...There is always a powerful connection between money and authority." Our publishing operation has become a considerable portion of the A.A.W.S. effort. In the last two Conferences, 50% of all Advisory Actions were actions carried out by the publishing division of AAWS. Such is the magnitude of our literature. Since Group Services, in part, relies on money from publishing to cover the shortfall of group contributions, one can see where authority (power) can follow money. Thus, where does the authority flow when A.A.W.S. holds the purse strings for the General Service Board due to literature revenue and also handles the group funds? Does the authority come from the General Service Board who has the stated authority or from the ones who control the funds necessary to carry out activities - A.A.W.S.?
Because of the nature of the problems facing A.A.W.S., policy decisions have been made in recent years which, perhaps, should have been in the purview of the General Service Board. The General Service Board is responsible for the work of the General Service Board. To that end, service corporations should behave like service corporations. We have been and are now still struggling to find solutions to some of these policy decisions that have been made by A.A.W.S. Our current litigation issue comes to mind. An issue such as this has come about as a result of placing too much responsibility in one service entity. When no one is taking responsibility for policy issues, someone must make these decisions. It is not all the fault of A.A.W.S., per se, but the fault of a structure that has placed too much authority and responsibility there.
As a result of the increasing focus of A.A.W.S. on publishing, the General Service Office has been lost under the publishing umbrella. GSO is the focal point for the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. We need to make GSO more visible to the Fellowship and in closer proximity to the General Service Board.
The General Service Board is a holding company and it is accountable to the Fellowship it serves. In this capacity, it has oversight responsibilities to the Fellowship. By incorporation of the General Service Office the General Service Board can fully exercise this accountability. This is accomplished simply by the "power of the purse" whereby each service corporation of the General Service Board is dependent on the General Service Board for funds. The General Service Board would act as the central banker for the service entities. That is excess revenues from sales and contributions would go directly to the General Fund. Each entities budget would be approved by the General Service Board and funds made available as needed.
Incorporation of the General Service Office will give the Fellowship a better ability to focus on that entity that provides them Group Services. Also, the General Service Board would have a clearer channel of communication with the Fellowship and a clearer perspective of the Fellowship.
The General Service Board will have improved accountability from the service entities as a result of the diffusion of responsibility over three corporations. The reduction of size and complexity will enable the director so A.A.W.S. increased time for General Service Board responsibilities. Also, this reorganization would free the time and efforts of the General Manager to concentrate his efforts on the General Service solely.
As I finish these remarks, I will Hand out a very rough attempt to diagram what I propose. This should not be considered definitive by any means - many questions are still to be answered. For instance, should the Trustees-at-Large both be on the General Service Office Board? They travel extensively throughout their respective countries and have an overall view of the Fellowship. Should there now be nine non-Trustee Directors? Increasing the pool for General Service Trustees might be desirable but is nine just too many? Which Boards should ClassA/B Trustees serve? Should they rotate? I could increase the list ad infinitum. The chart is a starting point and a point of reference for further discussion.
If we do not take a serious look at a reorganization, I am concerned that we, the General Service Board, will find that our services will deteriorate and further distance us from the Fellowship. If we do not address this reorganization, I am concerned that rapidly emerging technological communications may make us an amusing anachronism. Groups and Areas today can and are providing their own record-keeping, publishing, and a wide variety of other services. Witness the video material presented to the General Service Office by a California Area at the 42nd General Service Conference. They were of excellent quality and produced at a very reasonable cost. I am concerned with the lack of confidence and frustration many in the fellowship express regarding Group Records and other services provided by the General Service Office. It is not hard to comprehend why many in the Fellowship perceive that the focus at GSO is on our publishing responsibilities first and foremost.
As mentioned earlier, the Conference would have to approve a reorganization. In fact, according to our Conference Charter, regardless of the legal prerogatives of the General Service Board, as a matter of tradition, that a three-quarters vote of all Conference members may bring about a reorganization of the General Service Board and the directors and staff members of its corporate services, if or when such reorganization is deemed essential. The issue of reorganization could open a marvelous opportunity to engage in open communication with the Conference and the Fellowship. Leadership entails risk and I feel certain that the General Service Board is most capable of accepting the challenge to move forward with a view of reorganization in the best interests of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In closing, I would like to quote from Bernard Smith, "Slowly and painstakingly we have built upon the spiritual foundation of this great society a structure that, I believe, with continued devotion, can insure that this Fellowship can be insulated against the ravages of time, of dissent, of materialistic decay." He further states, "We must steadily re-examine the structure of our Fellowship to determine whether it needs to be shored up and if it needs it, to have the courage, the skill and the inspiration to do what is found to be necessary without impinging upon the spiritual foundation of this Fellowship for it is that which our structure seeks to preserve. Changes in our structure have been few and all of them have been sound. We have moved slowly, carefully, and I would suggest skillfully in building a structure that will maintain the unity of your Fellowship in the years that lie ahead. "
Northeast Regional Trustee-10/23/93