REDELA (Meeting of the Americas) September 29-October 3, 2019

Dear Members of A.A.,

I‘m privileged to present this report on the 21st Meeting of the Americas (REDELA) held September 29 – October 3, 2019, which Newton P. and I, as Trustees-at-Large and World Service Delegates, attended on behalf of the General Service Board. REDELA is an acronym for Reunion de las Americas. The theme this year was “Serving Together to Reach Our Goal”. The bi-annual REDELA is an opportunity for the countries in our World Zone – which includes Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America – to come together to share experience, strength and hope as service structures. There are 35 member countries and the attendance this year was 20 delegates representing 17 countries.

This year’s REDELA was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentinian General Service Office is located there, and Newton and I got the opportunity to meet with the Board at their office ahead of the REDELA, and also were able to visit it with the other Delegates some days later. They moved there just over a year ago, and now have a Board room, a literature depot and a large front meeting room. All of the members of the Board – Regional Trustees, Class A Trustees, General Service Trustees and the GSO General Manager were there to meet with us, with the exception of their President who was at a professional conference the day we first visited.

There was a pre-REDELA event that the local fellowship was invited to attend, with a series of four panels, which was very successful event. One of the panels was on Women in Service, an important topic at this gathering and at the REDELA. There was only one other woman Delegate at the REDELA, Maria from Brazil, and of course we were both part of that presentation, as was our GSO International staff person, Eva S. We are able to set a powerful example in our US/Canada service structure, with the Chairs of the General Service Board, AAWS and Grapevine all being women, and with the composition of our current General Service Board: 50% of the Regional, General Service Trustees and Trustee’s at Large are women, and 70% of the Class A Trustees are women. There was appreciation for those statistics and what they represent.

Country highlights, sharing sessions, panel discussions, and workshops-presentations – all of them were filled with a passion for Alcoholics Anonymous, and how to keep it thriving in home countries. There were heart-rending moments – the delegate from Venezuela literally risked his life to attend the REDELA. He wasn’t even certain how he was going to get back across his border. He faces criticism from within the fellowship for attending the REDELA and for working so hard to keep a viable service structure going. As you know, Venezuela is in a period of serious instability, and of course that affects AA as well. Membership is falling as people leave the country. Getting literature into the country is impossible. There’s no money to print literature as inflation keeps climbing. But by coming to the REDELA, Nicolas was able to reach out to the zone as a whole, and to the delegates as individuals, to share and receive support. And, he was able to meet with Newton and I who were able to, on your behalf, try and support him as he tries to keep the AA lights on in his country. He was also able to meet with Eva and David to work out a plan to use the International Literature Fund to creatively get some literature safely into the hands of the fellowship. That would not have happened without the REDELA.

All of the Delegates were given the opportunity to visit the General Service Office of Argentina, and it was a wonderful gathering. The staff and volunteers were warm and gracious hosts, and gave the participants the opportunity to hear and see the history of AA in Argentina. That warmth and generosity pervaded every aspect of the REDELA. The (quite small) organizing committee were constantly striving to make sure every need was met, and basically gave up their lives for the duration of the event in order to be of service. And yet, I got the sense that they did not want it to end.

One aspect of the experience that I found particularly important was the flowing of information between countries, ALL countries, and how much we have to learn from each other. Countries are finding remarkable resourcefulness in finding ways to carry the AA message, and to put structures in place that both serve their specific needs and can inspire new ways of approaching some of our shared challenges. I am humbled to have been there to learn so much, and to witness that love of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In love & service
Trish L., Trustee-at-Large (Canada)
General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Meeting Guide App

This is the first installment of a new Box 4-5-9 series on the technology that is changing the way Alcoholics Anonymous communicates to suffering alcoholics and interacts with its members.

Josh R., a web developer, did most of his drinking in New York City. In 2013, he decided a geographic would help and he moved to San Jose. Unlike most geographics, this one turned out to be fruitful — for both Josh and for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Once in San Jose, Josh got sober, found a sponsor and started going to A.A. meetings in the area. Only problem was, the local central office website — while it listed meetings — wasn’t so user-friendly for someone using a mobile phone. Like most A.A. websites, the site had been developed before mobile design came into general use. Such sites work fine for someone on a computer, but these days, A.A. sites get more than twice as many visitors from handheld devices as from traditional desktops or laptops.

“Essentially what I did,” Josh says, “is take all the meet- ing listings and export them to an Excel file with links to directions, and then made my own little app, just for myself. That’s where the germ of the idea for the Meeting Guide app developed — just me trying to find meetings.”

From early sobriety, Josh has been a supporter of intergroups and central offices. The intergroup rep from his home group suggested that Josh develop his person- al app into an app that all A.A.s in Santa Clara County could use. Josh agreed and conferred with the Santa Clara County central office.

Eventually, Josh went further than originally envisioned. He came up with the idea to develop a WordPress plug-in that intergroup/central offices, areas and districts across the country (and the world) could use, so that the meetings they listed on their sites could be added to the app and automatically updated every 12 hours.

A turning point for Josh was making a presentation of his app to the National A.A. Technology Workshop (NAATW), where he received support and feedback. The free app was launched in November 2015 with seven connected A.A. websites — those in Austin, Mesa (Arizona), Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco and San Jose.

Today, Meeting Guide is connected to 326 local A.A. organization websites. Getting connected wasn’t easy for all of them. Some local sites had to find new web servants, while others had to draft new policies and procedures, sign up for new web hosting, and try new soft- ware. In several cases, group consciences were sought to settle concerns about the Sixth Tradition and the future of the app: Would it always be free? Does this represent affiliation with an outside entity?

In an era when smartphones dominate, Meeting Guide is a simple, useful tool for newcomers and oldtimers alike — one that standardizes meeting information so that it is always readily available and up to date. Recognizing this, Josh did something unusual, but which is also completely within the spirit of the Fellowship: he gave the Meeting Guide app to Alcoholics Anonymous, for free.

“I realized,” Josh says, “that the only way we could continue to grow was to pass it on.”

In the fall of 2018, A.A.W.S., Inc. licensed Meeting Guide and put together a working group of consultants, employees and trustees to help bring it to fruition, and an updated version was released in summer 2019. Lois L. is a member of the steering committee for the NAATW and an administrator on the Technology in A.A. (TIAA) online forum. As an A.A. member with 30 years sobriety and a professional digital strategist and user experience (UX) consultant, she also advises G.S.O. on digital matters and technical strategy. She says, “What A.A.W.S. has done by acquiring and updating the app is to enable this vital piece of technology to live on forever, to be continually updated and improved upon. Providing the app is what G.S.O. is supposed to do — which is to disseminate public information on a national level for all A.A.s. It’s also important to point out that, although the app is provided to the end user for free, it costs money and time to maintain and update — money that comes from member donations to intergroup/central offices and G.S.O. itself.”

“Meeting Guide has multiple benefits,” says Clement C., staff member on the Communication Services desk at the General Service Office. “Professionals
such as therapists and probation officers are able to use it to steer people to meetings very easily. Anytime anyone is traveling, they find the app extremely useful.  One aspect I love is being able to text my favorite meetings to sponsees and to give them all the information they need to find them.”

Developed for iOS and Android, Meeting Guide is easily recognizable on G.S.O.’s website by its logo, a white fold- ing chair on a blue background. The app clearly tells the user the name and address of a particular meeting, the time it is being held, how far it is from the user’s current location, and what type of meeting it is. There are almost 110,000 meetings currently available on the app, and it currently has 186,000 monthly active users, increased from 84,000 in 2018.

“Meeting Guide is completely aligned with A.A. and was designed with a full understanding of our Traditions and Concepts,” says Beau B., a Class B (alcoholic) general service trustee and a director on the A.A.W.S. board. “It’s a great example of the right use of new technology: not walking away from who we are as a Fellowship, while allowing us to do so much more.”

Clement C. agrees, and also sees another benefit of Meeting Guide: “Having licensed the app, G.S.O. is now seeking to collaborate with intergroup/central offices — the places where the meeting information resides, after all — to keep it fully updated and make sure it continues to be a vital Twelfth Step tool. It’s a true program- wide effort.”

“I would hope that people are inspired by this and see it as a kind of service model — that you can create some technology on your own and then perhaps give it to the Fellowship,” Josh says. “I hope there are people out there who want to create, for instance, a Twelfth Step volunteer database to get out to groups who might need it. There’s a lot that we can do.”

Beau B. personally feels that A.A. is at a “tipping point” when it comes to the use of technology, of which Meeting Guide is only the first example to come to full fruition. Within a year, G.S.O. will have a new website to replace the 2014 version it currently has, one in which the search function is notoriously balky. The new site, Clement says, will “speak directly to people in a conversational way and make it easier for members and people coming to A.A. for the first time to find what they want.” Julie Gonzalez (nonalcoholic), Communications Services staff assistant, says that A.A. is “trying to do everything with current best practices. We’re listening to industry professionals and user feedback, and participating in the NAATW and Regional Forums.”

If so, it’s somehow fitting that people like Josh R., and those A.A.s who gather at NAATW conferences and online at the TIAA forum, may be the ones whose service at the local level can lead to effectiveness for carrying A.A.’s message to anyone, anywhere, who reaches out, or clicks, for help.

“After five years of attending NAATW conferences,” Lois L. says, “you start to see what people all over are doing and thinking about on their own. Much of what people are doing is experimental. Which is fine. The Traditions and Concepts support that. Let’s try new things, and if they don’t work, we’ll try something else.”

Part Two of this series will continue in the Winter 2019 edition.

Leadership in A.A. – Ever a Vital Need

At our group’s recent workshop on the “12 Concepts of World Service,” our moderator Tom M. talked about an article Bill W. wrote to the Grapevine in April 1959 titled, “Leadership in A.A. – Ever a Vital Need.”  This article is also published in our A.A. Service Manual in Concept 9.

For anyone who does service in A.A., it is a MUST read article.  ENJOY!

READ ARTICLE

GITC Celebrates One Year

On January 4, 2019, an amazing group of people came together for the first time to attend the inaugural meeting of the Get In The Car Group of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It was a beautiful night.

We are excited to celebrate our first anniversary on Friday night, January 31, 2020.  We’ve invited a truly dedicated A.A. servant from the Altered Boys Group in OKC, Alec “Petey” P., to come down and speak at this meeting.  It seemed appropriate to invite him to speak that night because his home group was the foundational inspiration to our group format.

We hope you will plan on joining us for an evening of fun, food and fellowship as we continue to try and carry a “clear and adequate presentation of our program” to all who join us that night.

Our undying gratitude goes out to everyone who has helped make GITC a wonderful experience of our Big Book as we continue to carry its message to the still suffering alcoholic.

In love and service,
Aaron P,  Terry C.  and  Rick W.
GITC Founders

12 Concepts Workshop

Please Share This Page With Your A.A. Network

Date: Saturday, October 5, 2019
Time: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Center of Unity, 1650 Hughes Rd., Grapevine, TX 76051
Speaker: Tom M., NETA65 Past Delegate (Panel 65)
Comments: Lunch will be served / 7th Tradition / Bring your Service Manual

FLYER:   (Download PDF  |   Download .PNG)

“Social Media — the Colossus of 21st Century Communication”

General Service Board Meeting

The General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc. held its quarterly meeting at the Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel, New York, NY on Monday, January 28, 2019. Leslie Backus, acting chair of the General Service Board, presided.

The topic of the First Quarterly General Sharing Session was “Social Media — the Colossus of 21st Century Communication.” Class A trustee Peter Luongo presented on the subtopic “Unity and Social Media” and G.S.O. staff member Sandra W. presented on the subtopic “Anonymity and Social Media.”

Trustee-at-large/U.S. Newton P. welcomed all, especially Conference committee delegate chairs. He read a portion of Bill W.’s Grapevine article from 1960 about “the vast communication net that now covers the earth…this colossus of communication.” Peter spoke about how Tradition One firmly and unequivocally states that A.A.’s unity is essential to the mission of carrying the message to the still-suffering alcoholic. He contrasted A.A. unity, which is straightforward and has stood the test of time, with social media, which “is neither straightforward, nor has it stood the test of time. It continues a rapid, unplanned and ungoverned proliferation toward an end that is equally unknown.”

Peter suggested that the answer is not to simply abandon social media, since it is often a helpful tool for those in recovery. Sandra, the second speaker, began jokingly by taking a selfie with the group “for my Instagram page.” Citing statistics about the billions of social network users worldwide and the frequency with which Americans use social media (often multiple times per day), she noted that for her the question is how we can maintain a presence on the social media landscape without compromising our Traditions.

Sandra referenced helpful resources such as the service piece “Anonymity Online” and the Conference-approved pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity.” She also referenced presentations from the recent 2018 Southeast Regional Forum, where a delegate presentation titled “A.A. and Social Media” discussed secret Facebook groups, acknowledging that “with advancements in technology, anonymity is a principle that will constantly need to be revisited.”

After the presentations, Newton invited sharing from the floor. A Grapevine director shared that she sees a great opportunity to reach millions of people with information about A.A. through social media, just as we reach people through our Public Service Announcements in order to help the still-suffering alcoholic.

A delegate chair suggested that our Class A trustees be the voice of A.A. on LinkedIn, in order to reach professionals. A delegate chair shared about her women’s group having a Facebook page. It began with simple posts about where everyone was going for dinner, which helped increase inclusiveness; eventually, however, there were posts that compromised anonymity.

A Grapevine director shared what he called the three absolutes when it comes to social media: this is the world we live in; these are the platforms that exist; and we have no control over what other human beings do. He feels that we need to vote, yes or no, on social media. If the vote is yes, then we need to develop an infrastructure within G.S.O. to engage with social media within our principles. A staff member observed that the question is not “should A.A. be on social media,” because A.A. is already on social media through individual members. But rather, should G.S.O. or AA Grapevine be on social media? In the past G.S.O. has been a communication portal, disseminating information, in a oneway fashion. Is there a need to change this? If so, how should this interaction happen?

An ACM shared that we need to be honest, open and willing to look at how we carry the A.A. message in the digital world. At his job, once he became open-minded about social media platforms, he found they were a great information resource. An A.A.W.S. director stressed that we focus on the accuracy of information about A.A. at the public level. She felt that our silence on certain platforms has opened the door for self-proclaimed spokespeople of A.A. who often misrepresent us with inaccurate information.

Newton ended the session by citing a statistic that the average millennial spends nine hours a day on social media. He feels that if we want to reach them we need to have a presence on social media.


If you would like to read the entire Quarterly Report from G.S.O. – click here