Concept 4

Short Form:

At all responsible levels, we ought to maintain a traditional “Right of Participation,” allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.

Long Form:

“Throughout our Conference structure, we ought to maintain at all responsible levels a traditional “Right of Participation,” taking care that each classification or group of our world servants shall be allowed a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.”

Principle of the Concept:


One Thing You Need To Know:

Trusted Servants Have a Right of Participation

Trusted Servants Have a Right of Participation

This Concept basically tells us that there should always be a right to vote and debate (discuss) by certain world trusted servants equal to the job they perform.

No organizational charts here.

The idea of “participation” can usually stop the misapplication or misuse of final authority, while reminding us at the same time that the “spiritual corporation” of A.A. should never include any members who are regarded as “second class.”

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

The principle of “Right of Participation” is built into the General Service Conference through the Conference Charter. Voting members include not only delegates, but also the trustees, and the directors and staff members of A.A. World Services (i.e., G.S.O.) and the A.A. Grapevine. In the same way, the boards of these two operating entities include as voting members not only trustees, but also nontrustee directors and paid administrators and staff members.

The chairperson of the General Service Board appoints nontrustee members to the standing committees in order to have the advantage of their expertise, and staff members serve as committee secretaries. “There are no ‘superiors,’ no ‘inferiors,’ and no ‘advisers.’” New trustees on the General Service Board and new directors of the A.A.W.S. and Grapevine boards are sometimes surprised to see paid executives, staff members and outside accountants attending the board meetings They are invited because of A.A.’s “Right of Participation.” Thus, the trustees and directors “are put into direct communication with these workers, who. . . feel wanted and needed. Although they do not vote, these workers may freely participate.”

Bill warns against the possibility of new delegates or trustees trying to “weaken, modify or toss out” the “Right of Participation.” He cites arguments by delegates to take away the trustees’, directors’ and staff members’ vote at the Conference. “Certainly,” he says, “our trustees and service workers are not less conscientious, experienced and wise than the delegates.”

“It is vital,” he continues, “to preserve the traditional ‘Right of Participation,’ in the face of every tendency to whittle it down.” Finally, there is a spiritual reason for the “Right of Participation.” All of us desire to belong. In A.A., no members are “second class.” The “Right of Participation” therefore reinforces Tradition Two, that no member is placed in “ultimate authority” over another. We perform our service tasks better “when we are sure we belong-when our ‘participation’ assures us we are truly the ‘trusted servants’ described in Tradition Two.”

The text above is an excerpt from the A.A. conference approved pamphlet (P8) The Twelve Concepts for World Service Illustrated. Download your own copy of the full pamphlet.


  1. Do we understand the spiritual principles underlying the “Right of Participation”?
  2. What does “in reasonable proportion” mean? Do we understand when it is appropriate for A.A. paid staff to have a vote at the General Service Conference or in our local service structure?
  3. Do we expect that, because we are A.A. members, we should be allowed to vote at any group, even if we are not active members of that group?

This checklist offered as part of Service Material from the General Service Office (SMF-91).  Download your copy of the complete checklist.