The following is a suggested format for group conscience meetings. It does not require formal decision-making methods such as motion, amendment, and debate because, as Concept Twelve (d) states, “all important decisions shall be reached by discussion, vote and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity.” But a group may decide that a certain item would be more efficiently discussed by using motions and votes. The size of the group may determine the formality needed. Each group may decide how to conduct their business.
Suggested Format for a Group Conscience Meeting
1.Introduction by chair of meeting (THIS CAN BE THE SECRETARY OR ANOTHER MEMBER THAT MAINTAINS A SERVICE POSITION AT THIS MEETING)
“Welcome to the group conscience meeting of the _______________ group of PA-A. My name is _________________, and I am the chair of this meeting.”
2. Serenity Prayer
“Will those who wish to, please join me in the Serenity Prayer:
God/higher power grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
3. Establishing Ground Rules (read)
“The purpose of this meeting is to make decisions that affect our group. I encourage everyone here to participate. If a matter comes to a vote and you do not attend our meeting regularly or do not plan to, please consider whether it would be reasonable for you to vote. However, we welcome everyone’s viewpoint; we can all learn from one another.
“Please remember Tradition Five: ‘Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alienated person who still suffers.’ Therefore, anything we decide at this meeting must reflect that purpose. No matter what we believe as individuals, we must be united in our purpose to carry our message as best we can to the alienated person who still suffers. That person is our primary focus.”
4. Minutes from Previous Meeting
Ask for a volunteer to take minutes or the chair/secretary can elect to take the minutes
“Are there minutes from our last meeting?”
[Secretary reads minutes, if available, or distributes copies.]
“Are there any corrections or additions?”
5. Setting Up the Agenda
(At this point, the chair presents the agenda and asks for additions or amendments. The agenda starts with any left over topics from the last group conscience. Followed by topics folks have shared with the secretary and lastly any suggestions at the current meeting.)
Present the agenda for the meeting now.
(The chair should make certain that the agenda is clear, in a logical sequence, and agreeable to those attending the group conscience meeting. The attendees address each item on the agenda one at a time.)
IF AN AGENDA ITEM IS ON THE ORGANIZATIONAL LEVEL AS A WHOLE. THE GROUP VOTES ON IT AND IF IT PASSES THE SECRETARY BRINGS IT TO THE NEXT SECRETARY MEETING TO PRESENT IT TO ALL SECRETARIES. A VOTE IS TAKEN THEN AND THE RESULTS ARE REPORTED AT THE NEXT GROUP CONSCIENCE AND AS AN ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE GROUP LEVEL.
6. Making Decisions/Voting/Seconding
[Some agenda items may require collecting information before the meeting; e.g., if one item is “Should the meeting start half an hour earlier,” it would be important to check if the room is available half an hour earlier. Depending on the nature of the issue, decisions can be made in different ways. The issue might not be controversial at all. It might be supported or opposed by most people in the group, but vehemently opposed or supported by a minority. It might have the support of only slightly more or less than half the group. Each possibility can require a different approach. To determine how to handle the issue, the chair might begin with a general statement, such as:]
PRESENTING AN AGENDA ITEM
“The issue here is whether or not this group should …………… (fill in with the 1st item on the agenda or the left over items from the previous meeting). Does anyone feel strongly one way or the other? Let’s go around the room and have people indicate how they feel, what they think would be best for the group, and why they think this would be helpful to the group.” (use a timer 1 minute per person) (Or, If it seems like the proposal will pass with out debate take an immediate vote)
HOW TO TAKE A VOTE….Let’s have a quick vote.
Those who like the proposal, please raise your hands. Now, those who don’t like the proposal, please raise your hands.”) If there is no objection you can ask for someone to second the passing of this item and move on. If just 1 person objects you will need to give everyone that wants a chance to share their perspective.
Some Support or Opposition
[If it is apparent that some feel strongly for or against the proposal, the chair may say something like the following:]
“It is clear that at least some members feel strongly that this proposal should (not) go forward. We in PA-A try to find a consensus, so it is important that we hear all points of view. Often those who disagree with the majority can best educate us by explaining the reasons for the views they hold. Let us remember that whatever decision we make can always be changed if our experience suggests it isn’t working. Let us have two people who support the proposal and two who oppose it speak for two (or 1-3 ) minutes each, alternating one for and one against, followed by another vote.”
“Is there any further business to conduct? Does anyone want to raise an issue for a future meeting?”
“Thank you for coming. To close the meeting, let us have a moment of silence followed by _____________________.” [Select one of the following suggested closings: Serenity Prayer, Seventh Step Prayer, Third Step Prayer, or the OA Promise: “I put my hand in yours…”]
Tradition Two tells us that “for our group purpose there is but one authority—a loving God/higher power as they may express themselves in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants—they do not govern.”
But what is a group conscience? How can it be achieved?
The booklet Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work (P-24) explains on page 51 that “the group conscience is the will of the group” and is based on members’ use of the Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts of Service as guides, maintaining “principles above personalities,” and sharing information as equals. If someone disagrees with the decision, Concept Five reminds us that members have the right of appeal and can express their opinion, which members will consider before deciding whether to revote or proceed. Everybody supports the final decision.
A group conscience determines in advance who votes and if decisions will be reached by a simple majority, two-thirds of the votes, or three-quarters of the votes. An informed group conscience is obtained when everybody has access to all the information before discussion.
A group conscience is where members get to vote on any changes that could affect the particular meeting they are attending. Every member gets to be heard and have a voice. The vote to add or change any aspect of the meeting will be done democratically. Each person in attendance gets 1 vote, a majority will pass a specific item on the agenda. A tie will defeat the motion.
If the groups votes on any items that affect the organization as a whole the secretary will take these measures that pass to the quarterly secretaries meeting to get voted on. The secretary will report back to the group if the measure was passed, defeated or postponed until the next meeting.
During announcements, Secretaries announce that there will be a group conscience.
- We will be having a group conscience on ………(date). We will be doing this directly after the meeting instead of fellowship time.
- Please let me know if you would like anything added to the agenda. This can include suggestions to adjust the meeting time, format, subject or anything else on a meeting or organizational level.
- Suggestions will be added to the group conscience agenda.
- I will need any suggestions before ………(indicate a date that is at least 1 day before the scheduled meeting).
- The person that adds a topic or suggestion to the agenda will need to attend the group conscience to have their topic brought to the group.
FORMAT FOR RUNNING A GROUP CONSCIENCE
SECRETARY ANNOUNCES, we will now be starting our group conscience anyone that doesn’t want to participate now would be an appropriate time to log off from zoom.
We start the meeting with the serenity prayer, please chant along with me.
- Today we have…..(number of items on our agenda.
- We shall be using a timer when we discuss any items. You will be given a total of 1 minute. Everyone will have an opportunity to share any thoughts if they choose.
- The first item is……. (name of person the brought it up)
- Would …..(name of person) like to say anything else about this item.
Once everyone has had the opportunity to share their perspective the secretary announces we will now have a vote. Do I have a second for a vote.