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What Is a Group Conscience

by | Apr 15, 2022 | ACA Toolbox, ComLine

Decision-making in ACA takes place through a process called Group Conscience. This process involves allowing each member to be heard and proceeding slowly. This avoids issues of drama, excitement, or controlling behavior, all of which may affect the outcome. Group Conscience emphasizes spirituality and placing principles before personalities. It also incorporates the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts.

ACA Concept XII states that Group Conscience requires substantial unanimity. It says in part that “all important decisions be reached by discussion, vote and whenever possible, by substantial unanimity.”

Substantial Unanimity is defined on p 596 of the “Big Red Book” (BRB): “Substantial unanimity means that decisions reached by ACA meetings or service bodies need to reflect the clear will of the group. Each group and service committee must decide the ‘important decisions’ that require substantial unanimity. Substantial unanimity is always greater than a simple majority and should exceed a two-thirds majority of those voting…”

But is a 66% vote the “clear will of the group?” Some decisions might never be made if one member disagreed with everyone else, so 100% is likely an impossible standard. But if a third of the members disagree, should a decision be made despite their objection?

I’d like to give an example I witnessed in the Committee I chair, the Literature Committee. Our Literature Evaluation Subcommittee assembles reader teams to evaluate literature proposed for conference approval. They fill out a questionnaire and then meet to discuss the answers to decide if the literature should be approved, not approved, or approved with suggested changes. The decision of the reader team is made by Group Conscience.  

In a recent Group Conscience discussion, one member of a team of six felt that the literature should not be approved. He stated that he felt the literature might be overwhelming to a newcomer. Every member stated their views. At the end of the discussion, the leader asked for a vote. The member who objected voted “no.” Then the leader asked, “despite your objection, are you willing to accept the view of the majority?” He said “yes.” A group conscience does not require that everyone agree. But it requires a clear will of the group, with all those objecting feeling that they were fully heard and their views considered. That is what makes it possible for a member to accept the majority view.

Here are some guidelines that have helped me in Group Conscience discussions:
+ Slow Down. 
+ Recognize that there is No Emergency. 
+ Avoid Addiction to Excitement, 
+ Avoid Fixing and Rescuing Mentality, 
+ Avoid Fear of Authority Figures (the group chair and/or the loudest voice in the room.)

The Group Conscience is useful not only in service meetings. It helps me see the connection between my Laundry List traits and my behavior in any group—as a multi-purpose recovery tool. 

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