Table of contents
- Introduction & Summary
- What is the difference between a group conscience and a business meeting?
- How do we take a group conscience?
- Before we begin: service positions needed for a group conscience
- Starting the meeting
- Agendas, Discussion Items and Motions
- Proceeding with Robert’s Rules of Order
- Seconding an agenda item
- Amendments and counter-motions
- Voting and Minority Opinion
- Unanimous consent
- Dismissing and withdrawing a motion
- Postponing a motion
- Referring a motion
- Points of order and requests for information
- Closing a group conscience
- When is the right time to hold a group conscience?
- How can I respond when conflict arises during a group conscience?
- Group conscience and our Twelve Traditions
- Group conscience as art not science
- Appendix A: Summary of Voting Procedures
1. Introduction & Summary
In ITAA, our personal recovery depends on group unity. We need safe, orderly, well-run meetings that can support us as we recover. To provide this support, groups need to decide on meeting formats, scheduling, service positions, and other such questions. In the same way, our fellowship as a whole needs to serve and support individual members and groups by making decisions about our finances, literature, website, and media relations. The way we make all of these decisions is through a process called group conscience.
Simply stated, a group conscience is a common view or decision arrived at by a group after collective discussion. Our Second Tradition states: We have but one ultimate authority: a loving Higher Power as they may express themselves through our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
Just as we must surrender our own ideas about how to recover from our addiction and instead trust our Higher Power to restore us to sanity, so too must we surrender the ultimate authority for our group and fellowship decisions to something greater than ourselves or any one individual. In arriving at a group conscience and entrusting our community’s decisions to the group conscience, we let go of our desire to control every outcome and instead give voice to the collective wisdom of all our fellow members.
Simple Instructions for Holding a Group Conscience
If we don’t have time to read this entire document ahead of our next group conscience, here is a very simple format for leading a group conscience:
- Open with a prayer or affirmation
- Decide on a time limit as a group if there isn’t a norm already (e.g. 20-30 min)
- Ask whether anyone has anything they’d like to discuss
- Allow fellows to introduce a motion (a concrete proposal)
- Ask if someone ‘seconds’ the motion (wants it to be discussed) – if nobody does, then the motion is not discussed
- Discuss the motion
- Vote on the motion (motions should have support from at least 2/3 of the voting members to pass—this ensures that they represent substantial unanimity. Abstentions are not counted at all.)
- Repeat 4-7 for each motion
- Close with a prayer or affirmation
The rest of this document gives a more detailed description of how group consciences work, including an overview of Robert’s Rules of Order. Understanding the ins and outs of group consciences can greatly improve our ability to do service, support our meetings, and strengthen the growth of our fellowship.
2. What is the difference between a group conscience and a business meeting?
As described above, a group conscience is the process of collectively discussing an issue and deciding on a course of action, trusting in the guidance of a Higher Power to lead the group in the right direction. A business meeting is simply the name for a more formal meeting that is planned and held for the purpose of taking a group conscience, typically involving an agenda. In other words, we schedule a business meeting to take a group conscience. It’s also possible to hold a group conscience spontaneously outside of a scheduled business meeting (see the section below titled “When is the right time to hold a group conscience?”). However, in practice, these are often used interchangeably.
3. How do we take a group conscience?
In order to arrive at an effective group conscience, we need to use a discussion and decision-making format that can allow everyone’s voice to be heard and that can help us arrive at a majority. Groups are empowered to discuss and develop formats that best serve these ends. One commonly used format for taking a group conscience is based on a procedure called “Robert’s Rules of Order.” This format was originally developed by Henry Robert in the 19th century when he noticed that the group discussions in his community often devolved into unproductive arguments. He wanted to find an orderly way to allow everyone to be heard without any one person dominating the discussion. The sections below provide a detailed description of how to apply Robert’s Rules to group consciences in ITAA.
4. Before we begin: service positions needed for a group conscience
Before beginning the group conscience process, the group will need to name a chairperson to help lead the group conscience. The purpose of the chairperson is to neutrally help the group follow Robert’s Rules, ensure members have a chance to be heard, and support the development of a group conscience. The chairperson is not there to guide the group towards what they personally believe to be the best solution. To this end, in some group consciences a chairperson may choose to not participate in discussion or votes, though they may cast tie-breaking votes when necessary. This helps the chairperson stay neutral and committed to supporting the collective consciousness of the group without having to balance that responsibility against their own personal preferences or viewpoints, especially when the topics are contentious. For many group consciences, this convention of not participating in discussion is commonly waived.
In addition to a chairperson, a secretary can be named to take the minutes of the meeting. “Minutes” is a fancy word for notes! Keeping minutes can help groups remember what decisions were already discussed and made in the past. Minutes are not a transcript of everything that is said, but they should always reflect any decisions that were made and contain the exact wording of any motions. They also list who was in attendance, what topics were discussed, and often some summary notes about what was said. In order to protect the anonymity and privacy of members, last names are not recorded in the minutes and attendees can request that their first names not be recorded either.
5. Starting the meeting
Once a chairperson and secretary have been named, the chairperson might begin the group conscience by reading a prayer, such as one of the following:
Higher Power, grant us the serenity
to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Higher Power, I understand that you make your voice heard in a group conscience. I ask you to remind me that the life of my program, and therefore my own recovery, depends upon my willingness to put the group’s welfare above my own will. Where I disagree with the common views of my fellows in service, allow me to state my case honestly and respectfully. Allow me to listen to and consider the views of others. May I state my view and support all group decisions, including the ones I might disagree with. May my will be aligned with yours.
The chairperson may also ask a volunteer to read one or all of the Twelve Traditions of ITAA.
Following this, the chairperson may open the floor for members to introduce themselves. To help preserve anonymity, we allow members to indicate if they would like for their names to not be included in the minutes.
6. Agendas, Discussion Items and Motions
At this time, the chairperson can proceed to the agenda. The agenda is the list of discussion items or proposals that the group conscience has been called to discuss and decide on. Typically, an agenda item will take the form of either a discussion item or a motion.
Discussion items pose a question, suggestion, or issue for the group to discuss. The purpose of a discussion item is to prompt dialogue around a particular topic, out of which a more formal motion may emerge. An example of a discussion item might read as follows: “To discuss: How can our meeting better support newcomers?”
Motions are concise and concrete proposals for an action or decision to take. They typically specify the “what,” “who,” “when,” and “where.” In other words, the motion is specific about what is being proposed, about who will be affected or who will implement the motion, about when the motion will take place, and about where the motion will be implemented (for example, the script, the meeting room, etc.). Motions typically start with the words “To” or “That”. An example of a motion might read as follows: “Motion: That we change our meeting script so that 40 minutes into the meeting the chair reads the following sentence: ‘At this time, we’d like to invite any newcomers who are present to share if you would like to. After newcomers have had an opportunity to share, we will return to open sharing for all members.’”
The meeting agenda may include items submitted before the group conscience, leftover items from previous business meetings, and new items raised during the group conscience. Agenda items are typically discussed in the order they are submitted, unless the group votes to change the order and reprioritize things.
7. Proceeding with Robert’s Rules of Order
With an agenda in place, the chairperson can proceed to a group conscience process following Robert’s Rules. The structure of this process is as follows:
- An agenda item is introduced to the floor.
- The agenda item must be seconded in order to be discussed by the group.This cannot be done by the individual who submitted the motion.
- The group’s aim is to allow all members to express their views on the matter being discussed. See Discussion section below for ways to ensure this.
- The agenda item can then proceed to one of the following actions:
Below is a detailed description of each of these steps. You can also view a visual overview of this process here: ITAA Robert’s Rules Flowchart
8. Seconding an agenda item
After an agenda item has been introduced, it must be seconded in order to be discussed by the group. To second a motion, a member other than the person who introduced the motion simply needs to raise their hand and say “Second.” You cannot second a motion that you have made.
The purpose of requiring a second is to ensure that at least two individuals wish to spend time discussing the proposed agenda item before committing the group’s time and energy to it. This ensures that one individual cannot dominate the agenda with items that no one else is interested in talking about. You do not have to be in favor of a motion to second it, you simply need to want to spend time discussing it.
One exception to this rule is that an agenda item which is the result of a previous group conscience does not require a second. For example, if a previous group conscience voted to discuss a certain topic at the next business meeting, then no second is required to proceed to that discussion when it comes up on the agenda.
Other than this exception, if an agenda item is not seconded then it is not discussed, and the person who introduced the item can be thanked for their proposal. The chairperson might say something like the following: “As our group conscience process requires a second before we spend time discussing something, we’ll move on to the next agenda item now. Thank you Jane for making this proposal.”
If you have made a motion that didn’t receive a second but still feel strongly that it should be discussed, you might find time outside of the meeting to discuss your ideas with other members and refine your proposal in such a way that it becomes more relevant to more members. After this you can submit the updated motion at the next group conscience.
Once an agenda item has been seconded, the chairperson can open the floor for discussion. During discussion, members may take turns expressing their views on the motion. To help prevent one member or a small handful of members from dominating the discussion, the chairperson might ask to implement some of the following limits:
- Setting a limit on how many times during a discussion each member may speak. For example, members may be asked to limit their contributions to two shares per agenda item.
- Conducting discussion in rounds. In other words, giving an opportunity for everyone to share at least once before opening the discussion to second shares.
- Setting a time limit on how long each member may share for. For example, members may be asked to keep their shares under two minutes. If a time limit is set, somebody should volunteer as a timekeeper.
- Setting a time limit for the entire agenda item discussion period. For example, a time limit of 10 minutes might be set, following which the chairperson can ask the group if they are ready to move on or if they would like to extend the discussion period.
- Asking members to use the “raise hand” function if it is a virtual meeting or asking members to raise hands physically if in-person, and calling on members to speak in the order that they raised their hands.
To avoid setting these limits unilaterally, the chairperson can ask if there are any objections to the proposed limit. If there are no objections, it means the limit has been accepted by unanimous consent (the use of unanimous consent is discussed further below). If there is an objection, the chair can either simply withdraw the proposed limit, or the introduction of the limit itself can be treated as an agenda item to be seconded, discussed, and voted on.
In addition to these structured limits, the chairperson can take other actions to ensure a healthy discussion in which all viewpoints are heard:
- If there are members who haven’t contributed to a discussion, the chairperson may ask if they have anything they would like to add. For example: “Jonathan, Kayla, and Rahul, I don’t think you’ve spoken up during this discussion. Is there anything you would like to say?”
- If a back and forth has developed between two or three members, the chairperson might ask others if they would like to step in: “Paola, Callum, thank you for your contributions. I just want to check if anyone else has anything they would like to add to this discussion?”
- If everyone seems to be in agreement about something, the chairperson may ask if there are any opposing viewpoints: “I’m hearing a lot of support for this motion. Is there anyone who would like to speak against the motion?”
- If the conversation seems to be going in circles with the same points being repeated, the chairperson might ask if anyone has something new to add: “It seems like we’ve had a robust discussion on this topic. Does anyone have a new perspective or viewpoint that hasn’t already been expressed? Or do we feel ready to move on to a vote?”
- If the conversation is straying away from the current agenda item, the chair can remind the meeting of the purpose of the present discussion: “These are great points, but I want to remind everyone that we’re currently discussing the scheduling of our meeting. If we want to also have a discussion about our meeting format, we can discuss that after we finish deciding on our meeting time.”
If the agenda item is a discussion item, it’s possible that the group may feel satisfied to move on to the next agenda item after everyone has expressed their view. Alternatively, the discussion might give rise to a formal motion, which can then be seconded and discussed.
If the group has been discussing a formal motion, the group can introduce amendments to the motion, or move to vote on, dismiss, postpone, or refer the motion.
10. Amendments and counter-motions
When a motion is being discussed, anyone may propose an amendment to the motion. An amendment is a change to the specific wording of the motion. For example, if the motion being discussed is: “To elect a treasurer for a 3-month term,” somebody might introduce an amendment to change the motion to: “To elect a treasurer for a 6-month term.”
After somebody has proposed an amendment, it requires a second in order to be discussed. If seconded, a discussion is opened only on the specific amendment itself. In the above example, the discussion would be limited only to the change in term-length, and not to any other aspects of the motion, like the treasurer’s responsibilities. After discussion on the amendment is concluded, the group should vote on the amendment only (see the “Voting” section below), and not on the entire motion. Amendments require a 2/3 majority to pass. If the amendment is passed, then the original motion is successfully changed to the new wording, and the group returns to the amended motion to continue discussion on the motion as a whole. If the amendment is not passed, then the motion keeps the original wording, and the group returns to the original motion to continue discussion.
In this way, we can think of amendments as “sub-motions” that take place within a larger motion. It’s important to remember that even if an amendment is passed, that doesn’t mean the motion as a whole is passed. It’s possible for an amendment to pass and then for the amended motion to fail.
There is no limit to how many amendments can be made to a particular motion. There is no minority opinion expressed following voting on amendments (see point 9 about minority opinion in the “Voting” section below).
Closely related to amendments are counter-motions. A counter-motion is a motion intended to completely replace the original motion. A counter-motion is often proposed when the group realizes through discussion on the original motion that a different motion would achieve the intended goal better and/or reflect the group conscience better. A counter-motion requires a second and a 2/3 majority to pass. If a counter-motion passes, it replaces the original agenda item (which is effectively dismissed) and the meeting moves on to the next agenda item. If the counter-motion fails, then discussion is reopened on the original agenda item.
11. Voting and Minority Opinion
Once members feel a robust discussion has been had on a motion, the meeting may proceed to voting. This is the process for voting under Robert’s Rules of Order:
- Anyone may make a motion to vote. This is sometimes referred to as “calling the question.”
- After somebody has made a motion to vote, somebody else must second the motion to vote.
- If there is a second, the chair can ask if there are any objections to voting.
- If there is an objection, the meeting votes on whether to vote. A 2/3 majority on the vote whether to vote is required to move on to voting on the actual motion. If less than 2/3 of members feel ready to move to a vote, then this means that discussion is re-opened. This usually happens when members feel that more discussion is needed before a vote can take place.
- If there are no objections to voting, or if a 2/3 majority of members present vote to move to a vote, then formal voting on the motion takes place. To conduct the vote, the chairperson first clearly restates the exact wording of the motion. Then they ask all those in favor of the motion to raise their hands, or to say “in favor,” or “aye.” Then they ask all those against the motion to raise their hands, or to say “against,” or “nay.” Then they ask all those who would like to abstain to raise their hands, or to say “abstain.”
- The chair and/or the secretary count the votes and then announce the votes to the meeting.
- A motion requires a 2/3 majority to pass. This helps ensure that group decisions have substantial support and unanimity, and are not passed on split votes.
- An abstention is not counted in the 2/3 ratio. For example, if a group has 6 votes in favor of a motion, 3 votes against, and 3 abstentions, that motion is considered to have received a 2/3 majority.
- If a vote is unanimous, or unanimous with some abstentions, then the motion is either passed or not passed accordingly, and we move on to the next agenda item (points 9 and 10 will not apply).
- If a vote has some members voting in favor and some members voting against, members who cast non-prevailing votes have an opportunity to express their minority opinion. At this time, they may express any final opinions, perspectives, arguments, or viewpoints that they feel the group has not sufficiently taken into consideration. Members who cast prevailing votes do not have an opportunity to express any counterpoints.
- If a motion has passed, only those who voted against may speak.
- If a motion has failed, only those who voted in favor may speak.
- After minority opinion has been expressed, the chair may ask if anyone would like to make a motion to reconsider, which would reopen discussion on the motion. Only somebody who voted on the prevailing side may make a motion to reconsider, but it may be seconded by anyone. If somebody makes a motion to reconsider and it’s seconded, the group can vote on whether to reconsider. A simple majority (over 50%) is required to reconsider. If the motion to reconsider passes, discussion resumes on the original motion, following which another vote can be held. There is no minority opinion after the second vote.
- When a vote requires a simple majority such as in the motion to reconsider, a 50/50 tie means the vote fails.
If a motion passes, then that motion is adopted and put into action moving forward. If a motion does not pass, then no action is taken. In both cases, the meeting then moves on to the next agenda item.
12. Unanimous consent
By now you might be thinking: “Voting in group consciences is a very complicated process!” The good news is that it gets easier with practice. And while our voting process can help us arrive at substantial unanimity and ensure decisions are aligned with the group conscience, there is also a simpler alternative when the proposed decision seems to be uncontentious and broadly supported by everyone present. Instead of voting, the chair may simply ask if there are any objections to the motion. If there are no objections, then the motion passes by unanimous consent. If there is in fact an objection to the motion, then the group simply proceeds to the standard voting process.
13. Dismissing and withdrawing a motion
Sometimes, the group conscience may lead towards dismissing a motion. This might be because the motion is no longer relevant, or the group no longer finds the motion to be the right course of action after discussion. In these situations, anyone may make a motion to dismiss the motion being discussed. If the dismissal motion is seconded, then the meeting moves on to voting on the motion to dismiss, whether by the traditional voting process or by unanimous consent. A 2/3 majority is required to dismiss an item.
It’s also possible to withdraw a motion you have made. If the motion hasn’t been seconded yet, you can freely withdraw it from the agenda. If the motion has been seconded, it now belongs to the group as a whole, and not just to you. If you wish to withdraw a motion that’s been seconded, the chair can ask if there are any objections to withdrawing the motion. If there are no objections, the motion can be withdrawn. If there are any objections, then discussion remains open.
14. Postponing a motion
A group can choose to postpone a motion, which is also sometimes referred to as “tabling” a motion. For example, a motion might be postponed because more information is needed before a decision can be made, or because the group feels there aren’t enough members present to vote on a motion. A simple majority (over 50%) is required to postpone a motion.
15. Referring a motion
A group may choose to refer a decision to a trusted servant or committee. This is also sometimes called delegation. For example, a group may delegate a question about how to collect 7th Tradition donations to the group’s treasurer. When an item is referred to a trusted servant in this way, the group typically empowers them to use their best judgment in making a decision. In other cases, the group may wish to request that the trusted servant develop a proposal and then submit it to a business meeting at a later date for approval. A 2/3 majority is required to refer a motion.
Sometimes we need to hold an election for a service position. This might be a meeting chair, a newcomer greeter, a tech host, a Group Service Representative, a contact person, or any other service position the group deems prudent.
When a position is created, the group should define the responsibilities of the position, any requirements for the position, and the length of term. Once these details have been defined, the floor can be opened for nominations. Members may either nominate themselves or others. If a member is nominated by someone else, they are free to decline the nomination.
Once all the nominations are in, the chair may open the floor for members to ask the nominees questions. Following this, the nominees are asked to step outside the room, or if it is an online meeting, they may be placed in the waiting room by the Zoom host. The remaining meeting participants then discuss in private and bring forward any further comments or concerns, and then the meeting votes on whether to elect the nominees.
Once the vote is finished, the nominees are invited back into the meeting and the results of the vote are shared. Those elected to service are congratulated, and those stepping down from service are thanked.
17. Points of order and requests for information
At any point during a group conscience, any member may interject with a point of order or a request for information.
A point of order is a comment or question about whether the group is following appropriate procedure. For example, if the chair forgets to ask for a second for a motion, anyone may interject with a point of order to remind the meeting that a second is needed before we can proceed to discussion.
A request for information is a question about the matter being discussed or the group’s procedures. For example, we might clarify if it’s already been discussed who will implement a particular motion if it’s passed, or we might ask how long the business meeting is scheduled to go until. A request for information is also sometimes referred to as a “point of information.” A request for information always takes the form of a question.
18. Closing a group conscience
A group conscience may close either when all the items on the agenda have been discussed and voted on, or when the business meeting reaches a set time limit. If the end time has been reached but a little bit more time is needed to finish resolving a discussion or a vote, anyone may make a motion to extend the meeting, for example by 5 or 10 minutes. A motion to extend the meeting requires a second, following which the chair may ask if there are any objections. If there is an objection and the group votes, a 2/3 majority is required to extend the meeting.
A group conscience may also end when somebody makes a motion to close the meeting. A motion to close requires a second, following which the chair may ask if there are any objections. If there is an objection and the group votes, a 2/3 majority is required to close the meeting earlier than the set time limit.
Once the group has determined to close the meeting, the chair may thank everyone for their participation and service and ask for a volunteer to lead the meeting out with a prayer, such as the “we” version of the serenity prayer.
19. When is the right time to hold a group conscience?
A group conscience can be held at any time. A group conscience can even be held to determine when is the best time to hold group consciences! When possible, we seek to announce group consciences ahead of time and make sure that everyone who will be affected has an opportunity to attend. Many groups hold regular business meetings at the same time every month so that members can plan ahead to make sure they can attend. In other situations, a time-sensitive matter might arise, and it might be helpful to hold a group conscience on the spot.
Ideally, when we hold a group conscience, we have a quorum present. A quorum is a minimum threshold for the number of members present such that they are sufficiently representative of all those who will be affected. In other words, we might want to avoid holding a group conscience with only two or three members if we would normally expect to have 10 members participating. Groups can set a specific quorum requirement for their group consciences (for example, requiring at least 6 members to be present in order to hold a group conscience), or we may use our intuitions if we feel there aren’t enough of us present to hold a representative group conscience. In such a situation, we might still choose to discuss the agenda items without voting on anything, and we can then seek to better announce the next business meeting such that more members have an opportunity to participate.
When we hold a group conscience in connection with an ITAA meeting, we might hold the group conscience after the normal meeting ends, or we might set aside the last fifteen minutes of the meeting for the group conscience, or we might hold the group conscience in the middle of the meeting, halfway through. Sometimes when we hold a group conscience at the end of a meeting, it can happen that members will not stick around. Holding a group conscience in the middle of a meeting can be helpful if we notice this is happening in our meeting. In addition to these options, we can also schedule a group conscience for a specific date and time other than when we normally meet.
20. How can I respond when conflict arises during a group conscience?
Sometimes, a group conscience can become heated, and conflict can arise. This can be a challenging experience for everyone involved. Whether we are the chair or a participant, there are steps we can take to honor the present conflict, create a safe environment for dialogue, build unity, and steer the meeting towards common solutions.
- We can acknowledge that the group is in conflict, and we can express gratitude, compassion, and respect for all sides. We might say something like: “I’m noticing some conflict in our discussion, so I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that and thank everyone for their presence and vulnerability. This is an important issue, and it makes sense that many of us feel strongly about it. I believe that engaging in this group conscience process, even if difficult, can lead us to solutions that serve our primary purpose.”
- We may pause discussion to read one of our opening prayers or the Twelve Traditions of ITAA.
- We may suggest taking a 5 minute break for meditation, prayer, stretching, drinking water, etc.
- If we are the chair and have not done so already, we might recuse ourselves from discussion and adopt a more neutral position, saying something like: “I’m noticing some conflict, so I’d like to remove myself from the discussion and instead become a neutral participant to help us follow our group conscience procedure and to try and give everyone an equal opportunity to participate.”
- We can pause the current discussion and instead discuss changes we can make to our group conscience process to ensure safety, order, and respect. For example, we might set some limits on how often each individual can share in a single discussion, or set a time limit on the motion as a whole. We might agree not to interrupt each other, or we might agree not to single out other members when disagreeing with them, and rather state our position or disagreement with respect to the motion being discussed.
- We can suggest postponing the motion to the next business meeting to give everyone some time to cool off. We can also suggest adjourning the present meeting.
- If we are feeling unsafe or overwhelmed, it is always appropriate to excuse ourselves and leave the meeting. We might say: “I appreciate everyone’s contribution to this discussion, but I think it’s best if I excuse myself. Perhaps in the future we can hold a separate group conscience to discuss how we can better manage these discussions for everyone involved.”
We might feel discouraged when we encounter conflict in group consciences. In these situations, after the meeting has ended we might practice self-care, such as taking a walk, praying, meditating, or calling another member. We can also write a 10th step inventory if we are feeling resentful. When discussing our experiences with other members, we refrain from gossiping, criticizing, or mentioning other involved members by name.
We can also remember that even if difficult, conflict is a part of life, and that engaging in conflict through our group consciences can be a tremendous learning opportunity for our development in recovery. Many of us have fears of conflict, rejection, and abandonment, and our addiction has enabled us to isolate and protect ourselves from engaging in conflict with others. Group consciences can give us an opportunity to practice healthy conflict that doesn’t result in rejection or abandonment—we will always be welcomed and loved in ITAA. By trusting in our Twelve Traditions and the support of our fellows, we can work through these difficult experiences to grow stronger both as individuals and as a community.
21. Group conscience and our Twelve Traditions
When we engage in group conscience, we can lean on our Twelve Traditions to help guide the process. Our Traditions are guidelines for promoting harmony, growth, and unity in our groups and our fellowship as a whole, and our experience has shown them to be an invaluable resource when engaging in group conscience. Below is a description of how each of our traditions can be applied to the group conscience process.
Tradition 1: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on ITAA unity.
The First Tradition reminds us to put the common needs of the group before our own, and to always seek unity as the foundation for our groups and our own recovery. If we pursue or support divisive thinking or action to achieve an outcome that is better for us personally, we are threatening the basis not only of the recovery of those around us, but of our own recovery as well. Tradition One helps us to practice acceptance, trusting that our group conscience decisions reflect the will of the group as a whole, and letting go of our own needs and desires in the face of the common welfare and unity of our group.
Tradition 2: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving Higher Power as they may express themselves in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
Our Second Tradition is the namesake of the group conscience process. It reminds us that no individual in ITAA has the power or authority to make decisions over others. We act as trusted servants, and we serve the collective good of the group and our Higher Power as expressed through the group conscience. When we help lead or participate in a group conscience, we are acting as a trusted servant, and we have a responsibility to help our group tune in to the will of a loving Higher Power. Tradition Two helps us practice humility, remembering that no member of ITAA is either above or beneath any other.
Tradition 3: The only requirement for ITAA membership is a desire to stop using internet and technology compulsively.
The Third Tradition reminds us that ITAA is open to anyone who wishes to recover. There are no age, education, or sobriety requirements, or any other kind of requirement for that matter. Our solution is available to all who want it. This Tradition also applies to our group consciences—the perspective of a newcomer is just as valuable and needed as that of an old-timer. While it can be appropriate to establish requirements for certain trusted servant positions or committee memberships, these requirements themselves should be established by a group conscience that is open to all members. The Third Tradition helps us practice open-mindedness, remembering that every member of ITAA has something to offer to our group conscience process.
Tradition 4: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or ITAA as a whole.
Whereas Tradition Three gives freedom to each individual member to participate and recover in whatever manner they choose, Tradition Four imbues our groups with the same freedom. Everything in this guide is a suggestion, and groups are empowered to establish their own practices and process for holding group consciences and making decisions. If decisions taken by our group will affect other groups or ITAA as a whole, then we involve those who will be affected into the group conscience process. Tradition Four helps us to foster diversity and empowers us to design our group conscience process to help create the fellowship we crave.
Tradition 5: Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the compulsive internet and technology user who still suffers.
Tradition Five helps orient our group conscience process towards our primary purpose—to help the compulsive internet and technology user who is still suffering, both inside and outside of our recovery rooms. We can invoke the Fifth Tradition during a group conscience to help clarify whether a potential group decision supports or detracts from our primary purpose. The Fifth Tradition helps us to practice focus, keeping our group aligned and unified in our service work.
Tradition 6: An ITAA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the ITAA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Tradition Six helps us to keep it simple. We avoid affiliating ourselves with outside organizations, political movements, religious communities, or any other enterprise so that we can maintain a neutral space that is welcoming to all who wish to recover. We can invoke Tradition Six during a group conscience when we believe a potential group decision might establish an outside affiliation. Tradition Six helps us to practice simplicity and neutrality, and also supports us in focusing on our primary purpose.
Tradition 7: Every ITAA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
The Seventh Tradition encourages our groups to take responsibility for their own affairs. We self-organize to ensure that orderly, regular group consciences are held, we volunteer to hold trusted service positions to keep our meetings running smoothly, and we make sure we cover any of our group’s expenses by contributing ourselves and collecting contributions from other members of our group. When something isn’t working for our group, we hold a group conscience to take action, rather than waiting for other groups or the fellowship as a whole to take action. The Seventh Tradition helps us practice self-sufficiency and independence.
Tradition 8: ITAA should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
The Eighth Tradition means that we don’t offer professional mental health or addiction recovery services. Even if some of our members do have such professional qualifications, in ITAA we are all equal: everyone is an addict who is trying to recover and help those around them to recover as well. In our group consciences, we practice the same equality—even if we have professional business, legal, or organizational expertise, our Higher Power speaks through the collective will of our whole group, and every member’s opinion is considered equally. This doesn’t mean that we can’t offer our skills and experience to the group, but that we do so as an addict among addicts. While ITAA currently does not have any employees, the Eighth Tradition empowers groups and our fellowship to employ experts when there is a prudent need—we might engage an accountant, lawyer, administrative assistant, janitor—but our Twelfth Step work should always remain nonprofessional. The Eighth Tradition helps us practice equality when we engage in group conscience.
Tradition 9: ITAA as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
The Ninth Tradition doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be well-organized and orderly, but that we have no hierarchy. Everything in ITAA is a suggestion and not a rule—there is no way to kick out any member or group. When we create service boards or committees, they are directly responsible to those they serve—not the other way around. When we hold a group conscience, we are not making executive decisions, rather we are directly responsible to those we are serving. Tradition Nine helps us to keep present the principle of service when we engage in group conscience.
Tradition 10: ITAA has no opinion on outside issues, hence the ITAA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
The Tenth Tradition, like the Sixth, helps our meetings remain safe, neutral spaces to support our common solution. As a group, we do not endorse, oppose, or even discuss outside issues that do not pertain to the needs of our group and recovery from internet and technology addiction. We also ensure that we do not make any such public statements to avoid causing controversy. The safety this Tradition provides is just as important in a group conscience as it is in a meeting, so that everyone feels comfortable honestly sharing their perspective without fear of judgment or criticism. Tradition Ten helps us to foster safety and unity in our group consciences.
Tradition 11: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, television, and other public media of communication.
Tradition Eleven pertains specifically to how we engage with the media as members of ITAA. We can invoke this tradition in a group conscience if our group has been approached by a journalist or researcher, or if our group is considering how to appropriately carry the message through public outreach without sensationalizing or selling our program. In these situations we might also benefit from reaching out to ITAA’s Public Relations Committee for support. In group consciences, the Eleventh Tradition can also help us practice attraction rather than promotion for our service needs. We can encourage those who are new to service to try it out, and we ultimately trust that members will discover that service is its own reward. We don’t need to sell or cajole other members into doing service. If there are not enough willing members to keep a meeting going, we can close down the meeting and seek out other meetings for our recovery needs. Tradition Eleven helps us to practice patience, trusting that in time, those who need our program will find it and support it, and that all will fall into its right place.
Tradition 12: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The Twelfth Tradition is essential to our fellowship as a whole and to how we take group consciences. We remember that we are bound together by a common solution to a common problem, that we all share the same Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and that no one individual comes before our common principles. In group consciences this means that unless there is a special reason for doing so, we don’t avoid holding a business meeting simply because a certain member isn’t able to join or contribute. No matter how valuable their opinion may be, we trust in the collective wisdom of the group to guide us in the right direction. Tradition Twelve also helps us to practice rotation of service, meaning that no individual should hold a service position indefinitely. Rather, we regularly rotate out of service positions to allow others the opportunity to be of service and to avoid concentrating power or authority in any one individual. Tradition Twelve helps us to practice faith, trusting in the principles of our program and the group conscience.
22. Group conscience as art not science
While a standard set of rules and procedures can help us keep order and ensure everyone has a chance to speak, arriving at a group conscience involves more than simply following a process. It comes from listening to each other deeply and seeking solutions that can work best for everyone, not just ourselves. We practice compassion, selflessness, humility, honesty, and respect for our fellow members when leading or participating in a group conscience. Where we may disagree with a decision, we trust that it accurately represents the will of the entire group. We remember that developing a group conscience is an art and not a science, and the process can at times be messy, difficult, surprising, or joyous. We learn and grow together. Ultimately, we trust in the guidance of a loving Higher Power greater than any one of us as individuals to lead us in our common journey.
Appendix A: Summary of Voting Procedures
|Action||Requires a second?||Involves discussion?||Vote required for approval||Minority opinion?|
|Motion created by former group conscience||No||Yes||2/3||Yes|
|Motion to vote||Yes||No||2/3||No|
|Motion to reconsider (can only be made by a member who cast a prevailing vote)||Yes (may be seconded by either side)||No||Simple majority||No|
|Motion to extend||Yes||No||2/3||No|
|Motion to close||Yes||No||2/3||No|