Concept 6

Short Form:

“The Conference recognizes that the chief initiative and active responsibility in most world service matters should be exercised by the trustee members of the Conference acting as the General Service Board.”

Long Form:

On behalf of A.A. as a whole, our General Service Conference has the principal responsibility for the maintenance of our world services, and it traditionally has the final decision respecting large matters of general policy and finance. But the Conference also recognizes that the chief initiative and the active responsibility in most of these matters should be exercised primarily by the Trustee members of the Conference when they act among themselves as the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Principle of the Concept:


One Thing You Need To Know:

The Conference Allows the Board to Do Its Job

The Conference Allows the Board to Do Its Job

As we learned in Concept 2, the Conference knows its duty, but in the end, knows it only meets once a year while the General Service Board (GSB) meets more frequently to carry out the tasks assigned to it by the Conference.

Giving the Board a liberal authority to get its job done is crucial.  Why?

The Conference does not micro-manage the Board throughout the year and experience has shown that a “wide latitude of administrative freedom” allows the Board to effectively manage the world affairs of A.A.

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

We have seen that the “final responsibility and ultimate authority” for A.A.’s service activities rest with the A.A. groups (Concept I), but to carry out this responsibility they must delegate to the Conference (Concept II). The Conference, in turn, must delegate administrative authority to the General Service Board of Trustees. Again, it is helpful if you are familiar with both the Conference Charter and the Bylaws of the General Service Board to understand this relationship and the freedom of action that the trustees must have.

The trustees have the legal and practical responsibility for the operation of A.A. World Services, Inc. (which embraces A.A. publishing as well as the General Service Office) and of the A.A. Grapevine, Inc. These entities have a combined cash flow of many millions of dollars annually. The trustees are also responsible for A.A.’s public information activities. They are the guardians of the Twelve Traditions. They are responsible for carrying the A.A. message to other countries around the world. They are A.A.’s “bankers,” overseeing the financial operations and investing A.A.’s substantial Reserve Fund. (Read the text of Concept XI for a more detailed account of their functions.)

Bill makes the point that although “our objective is always a spiritual one,” nevertheless our world service is a “large business operation.” “Indeed,” he says, “our whole service structure resembles that of a large corporation. The A.A. groups are the stockholders, the delegates represent them, like proxy-holders, at the annual meeting; the General Service Board Trustees are actually the directors of a ‘holding company.’ And this holding company (the General Service Board) actually owns and controls the two ‘subsidiaries’ (A.A.W.S and the A.A. Grapevine) which carry on the . . . services.

“This very real analogy makes it . . . clear that, like any other board of directors, our trustees must be given large powers if they are to manage the . . . affairs of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

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. Are we familiar with how our General Service Board (G.S.B.) Class A and Class B trustees serve A.A.? Are we familiar with how our other trusted servants serve A.A.?
  2. Are we clear about the terms, “chief initiative” and “active responsibility”? Can we see a direct link to our home group?

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