Twelve Concepts of Service and Public Relations

From the early days of our Fellowship, our Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions have guided us as a Fellowship and paved the way for our growth. The guiding principles of our Traditions have influenced our fundamental decisions, helping to protect us from ourselves. The Twelve Concepts of service, as guiding principles, empower the groups to create an efficient and responsive service structure to serve their common needs.

In the text which follows, we will discuss the Twelve Concepts as they apply to the delivery of services from a Public Information perspective. These essays are derived for the 1998 Draft PI Handbook and was not intended to replace the more thorough discussion of the Concepts in the pamphlet, “The Twelve Concepts of NA Service.” This discussion is solely our shared experience on the subject, from a Public Information point of view.

Concept One – “To fulfill our fellowship’s primary purpose, the NA groups have joined together to create a structure which develops, coordinates and maintains services on behalf of NA as a whole.”

Services should be developed, maintained and coordinated with the primary purpose of serving the addict who still suffers kept firmly in mind. Often in PI work, we don’t speak directly with or touch the suffering addict, but our services must always consider that addict.

For example, when we give a presentation to the public, we strive to keep our message clear and concise and share information about who we are, what we do, and how to find us. We do this so that the members of the public will remember that NA is a viable means of recovery and will refer addicts to us at whatever time in the future they come across an addict who appears ready for recovery.

Several spiritual principles are evident in the wording of this Concept. The principle of unity implies that NA groups have joined together and developed a service structure which provides services, by delegation, on behalf of the groups.

Using the guiding principle of humility, this Concept states that our Public Information subcommittees exist because the groups created them, not the other way around. Implicit also is the principle of integrity, which tells us that all our actions in carrying out our responsibilities are a reflection of the groups which have created us.

Concept Two – “The final responsibility and authority for NA services rests with the NA groups.”

As a guiding principle for the delivery of Public Information services, the second concept holds special importance. That importance revolves around the balance between trust and delegation. Since the groups have created the service structure, they have the final authority over it. Public Information subcommittees must remember that they are responsible to the groups through their Group Service Representatives, Regional Committee Members, and Regional Delegates. They are not groups themselves; they are not autonomous. PI subcommittees serve at the direction and with the support of the groups.

As members of PI subcommittees, we provide resources to the groups and the groups provide resources to us. The voice of the groups gives us our direction in planning how to help guide the still suffering addict to our meetings. The resources—both human and monetary—with which the groups provide us, enable us to follow that direction.

In working out the delicate balance between trust and delegation with the groups which created us, we have found that humility and patience are two of the principles which come before the personalities.

Concept Three – “The NA groups delegate to the service structure the authority necessary to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to it.”

The Third Concept speaks of delegation. The NA groups delegate to us the authority necessary to fulfill the tasks they have assigned us. We, in turn, are accountable to them for that authority. As PI subcommittees, it is equally important that, when we select people to lead and to serve us, we also practice vigilance and accountability.

When we ask people to speak about our Fellowship, it is important that those chosen practice humility and the other spiritual principles necessary to help them effectively carry out their task.

When we are designing a project, it is important to support that project throughout its entire life cycle, not abandon our responsibility for it part of the way through. When selecting speakers for PI presentations, we must keep in mind that what is important in the end is the credibility of our Fellowship itself, not that of the individual messengers. Again, humility and integrity play important roles here.

When delegating responsibilities, or when receiving delegated responsibilities, we must understand exactly what these responsibilities are, and precisely how much authority has been delegated. Sometimes with new projects or new committees, the groups will want to have more involvement in the decision-making process than they would if the project were a continuation of a previous one, or the committee had been in existence for a while.

Trust in our trusted servants is not automatic. We develop this trust by continuing to act with honesty and integrity within the committee framework, guided by group conscience and the will of our Higher Power.

Concept Four – “Effective leadership is highly valued in Narcotics Anonymous. Leadership qualities should be carefully considered when selecting trusted servants.”

We must carefully select our trusted servants, choosing them not only for their willingness to serve, but also for their abilities, skills, and experience. Qualities such as humility, honesty and trustworthiness are as important as willingness. We should choose leaders who will listen open-mindedly to the groups’ direction and their fellow members’ experience, yet who will also stand firm on sound principles if the need arises. After making the selection, we must continue to evaluate our leaders’ work and give them direction.

In PI, our committees are generally project-oriented. Project leaders, or coordinators, must be given resource support to enable them to carry out their responsibilities efficiently. They should also be encouraged to involve others through delegation, and by asking for guidance from those who have had experience with similar projects in the past.

Concept Five – “For each responsibility assigned to the service structure, a single point of decision and accountability should be clearly defined.”

Each action we perform should have a clear point of accountability. For the committee as a whole, that point is the chair who reports to his or her respective Area Service Committee, Regional Service Committee, or World Services.

For specific projects, the usual type of work we do in PI service, a single coordinator, project leader, or ad hoc chair should be selected. This person should be held accountable for the responsibilities assigned to him or her. These responsibilities and our other expectations of that person should be clearly defined; some committees include them in their guidelines or procedural manuals.

The spiritual principles important to the Fifth concept are integrity, respect, and trust. This concept’s insistence upon accountability fosters all three principles. In essence, the committee tells the individual who has been selected as the single point of accountability for a task that it trusts him or her and that, through this trust, it is showing that it respects that person’s personal integrity.

Trust, as has been pointed out earlier, must be earned. The committee, in selecting this person as the single point of accountability, is saying that his or her past actions—both on behalf of service to the NA Fellowship, as well as in his or her personal life—have convinced them to trust that individual with the responsibility of carrying out the particular task assigned. They respect the individual’s personal integrity, and trust him or her to accomplish the task with excellence, and within the time frame allotted for it.

Concept Six – “Group conscience is the spiritual means by which we invite a loving God to influence our decision.”

Group conscience is essential to effective committee work. A single trusted servant’s lone voice, putting forth a “brilliant idea” should bring that idea to the committee for discussion and input. Sometimes our brilliant ideas must be amended in light of past committee experiences or a broader understanding of NA’s traditions. Committee members must remember that the group process serves NA and the decisions of the group should be respected and faithfully implemented.

Our own literature’s narrative chapter on Concept Six reminds us that the word “group” in “group conscience” should be interpreted as “collective” when it states, “Developing a collective conscience provides us with the spiritual guidance we need for making service decisions.” The last paragraph of its discussion begins, “Group conscience is the means by which we collectively invite the ongoing guidance of a Higher Power in making decisions.” Thus, group conscience means the collective conscience of those (trusted servants) participating in the committee’s decisions.

What exactly, then, is the individual conscience of each participant?

It is an essentially spiritual characteristic. It is our innate sense of right and wrong. “Higher mental and emotional functions such as conscience and the ability to love, were sharply affected by our drug use. Living skills were reduced to the animal level. Our spirit was broken. The capacity feel human was lost. This seems extreme, but many of us have been in this state.” [Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, 5th Edition, English, pages 101-102]. As we steadily apply spiritual principles in our lives, our decisions and actions increasingly become less motivated by self-interest, and more motivated by what our conscience tells us is good and right.

Another way to put it is to realize that when we practice the development of a group conscience, we are applying the spiritual principles of selflessness, honesty, and humility, all byproducts of a personal spiritual awakening. Our own personal sense of right and wrong contributes to the development of our groups’ consciences and thus influences our committees’ direction and decisions.

The Sixth Concept’s idea that individual consciences combine and interact to form a collective conscience is a very strong and spiritually sound view of the phrase “group conscience.”

Concept Seven – “All members of a service body bear substantial responsibility for that body’s decisions and should be allowed to fully participate in its decision-making processes.”

The Seventh concept teaches us that all members of our service teams should truly participate in the teams’ decision-making processes.

All contributions count, and maximum involvement yields sound, sensitive service decisions. We welcome the Sixth Concept’s idea that individual consciences combine and interact to form a collective group conscience.

When applied conscientiously, the seventh concept tends to equalize each contributing voice in relation to the whole. The seventh concept also points out the reason we encourage full participation in our decision-making processes; it is because each person who helps make the committee’s collective decision on some issue bears substantial responsibility for his and her individual decisions.

Full participation in discussion is essential to good decision-making. If a committee discovers that full discussion is frequently limited due to time constraints, it may wish to consider changing the length or the frequency of its meetings.

Full discussion, of course, does not mean unlimited discussion with several members speaking repeatedly during the discussion. The chairperson may need to implement discussion tools to help manage the meeting. Some of these tools including limiting the number of pros and cons which may be discussed on each issue; calling on each individual only once or twice during each discussion; or limiting the time any one individual may speak on a particular issue. If any of these methods is used, it must be consistently implemented to ensure fairness, and so that each person present understands the committee’s protocol for equitable participation.

Although full participation does not necessarily mean that each person in the room is permitted a vote, a committee’s voting procedures should always be clearly stated, perhaps in its guidelines. Being inclusive, however, is always preferable to being exclusive. Committees often work by consensus and vote only when consensus is not reached.”

Concept Eight – “Our service structure depends on the integrity and effectiveness of our communications.”

The groups have joined together to create a service structure which develops, coordinates, and maintains services on behalf of NA. The relationship of the groups to our structure is a two-way street analogous to the sponsor/sponsee relationship in our recovery. Our sponsors can only be effective in helping us if we honestly tell them who we are and what our experiences have been. Similarly, in Public Information work, our services are only as effective as the communications which support and guide them.

Full, honest reporting to those we serve ensures that the flow of information will support our continued growth as a Fellowship, since true group conscience comes best from having all available information on hand, and then from open-mindedly listening to it all. Clear, frequent communication helps ensure that our services will be effective because they will more fully represent the collective conscience of our groups.

This concept is directly important to our service committees as they communicate within themselves and with each other. Honest, effective, and complete internal communications paves the way for unity of purpose in developing, coordinating, and maintaining services on behalf of NA. A good part of communications involves listening to what others are saying, and the committee should always operate with an attitude of respect and attention to all participants.

Clear and effective communication is equally essential within the committee itself, other parts of the service structure, and with the public. For example, within the committee, new members should be guided by those with experience in making reports which are both inclusive and concise.

Concept Nine – “All elements of our service structure have the responsibility to carefully consider all viewpoints in their decision-making processes.”

The ninth concept reminds us that our selfless service to others requires that all viewpoints be considered. We need to seek out and listen open-mindedly to all available viewpoints during our decision-making processes in order to make a true group conscience decision.

That lone voice which often quietly says, “What about this..?” can often save the committee from stepping outside the limits of our concepts and traditions. That single voice which says, “Why don’t we try this..?” can sometimes lead to exciting new possibilities for the committee. It is the chairperson’s responsibility to include those voices in the discussion.

It is the committee’s responsibility to carefully consider all viewpoints and it is the individual’s responsibility to abide by the final decision of the group, whether or not consensus has been reached.

Concept Ten – “Any member of a service body can petition that body for the redress of a personal grievance, without fear of reprisal.”

Although NA is a spiritual fellowship, its members are human. We have strong opinions and attitudes, and the free expression of those attitudes is our responsibility and right during the course of contributing to the decision-making process. We learned the value of considering all viewpoints in the Ninth concept. When we have been the minority voice ourselves, however, and have challenged the status-quo with our ideas and input, sometimes our freedom imprisons us.

Occasionally we might become stereotyped and judged rather than listened to and understood. If we suffer hurt during the process, the Tenth Concept allows us a vehicle by which we might address our grievance without fear of reprisal.

A process for considering a Tenth Concept petition is an essential item for each service committee. Hearing such a petition is often a painful time during a committee’s life together. If a process has been developed and clearly defined in the committee’s guidelines or procedures, the anguish of hearing a fellow member’s grievance can be lessened, and mutual respect between all parties involved should be more easily attained.

As a guiding principle, the Tenth Concept is not designed to be used as a weapon against those who disagree with us. It is intended, rather, as a balance mechanism which can protect the integrity of our personal involvement in the delivery of Public Information services.

Concept Eleven – “NA funds are to be used to further our primary purpose, and must be managed responsibly.”

The eleventh concept ties together many of the previous concepts. It requires that all financial resources be used to further the primary purpose, whether it directly or indirectly affects the addict who still suffers.

It is important to remember that it is the work, not the resources, which is important. Simply put: just because a committee has a lot of money, that doesn’t mean it should take on the largest project it can imagine.

Responsible management of resources, both financial and human, requires us to follow the direction of the groups and our own collective consciences when assigning priorities to service projects and tasks. Responsible management also requires that we practice regular reporting to ensure complete accountability for our financial resources.

Financial responsibility can be a difficult subject. Funds should be managed by the committee with periodic comprehensive review procedures, as well as safeguards designed to protect the individual trusted servants. Financial reports and written documentation should be kept and available for others to review. Reports to the respective Area Service Committee, Regional Service Committee, and World Services should include detailed financial statements as requested those committees.

The committee’s decisions concerning how to spend the money allocated to it should always keep in mind the necessarily limited nature of our financial resources; it should also frequently monitor the effectiveness of its expenditures in furthering the primary purpose. We have found that making realistic budgets, and then living within them, is a laudable enterprise, both within the NA Fellowship, and in life in general.

Concept Twelve – “In keeping with the spiritual nature of Narcotics Anonymous, our structure should be one of service, never of government.”

As a guiding principle, the Twelfth Concept teaches us that Public Information services should be kept within the spiritual boundaries which nurture our personal growth, and the growth of the NA fellowship. When working with one another on a committee or task team, we should express attitudes of cooperation, not dictation.

As PI committees, we seek to cooperate and facilitate our public information efforts with other PI and other service committees whenever service boundaries are crossed. We never take action to “force” other PI committees to serve our will or accept our actions as justified. In fact, by following the will of the fellowship in doing PI work, we cover the range of most of the spiritual principles we’ve learned about in our personal recovery.

Two of these spiritual principles are especially important for PI workers. The first one is humility. Members of PI committees don’t seek accolades for the work they do. PI workers carry the message anonymously, and most times, indirectly to those who still suffer. Much of the work done by PI committees is unnoticed by the average NA group member. However PI workers do see the gift of practicing humility when a Higher Power reveals the greatest gift of service; a newcomer who found NA through our PI efforts.

The principle of selfless service also rings true for PI workers. Those of us who succeed in putting what is best for NA as a whole over our personal interests, are acting in a truly selfless manner. The typical lessons experienced by most PI committee members, such as learning to let go of one’s personal problems before entering a committee meeting, listening to new PI committee members with patience and respect, giving personal time and resources to educate the fellowship about the value of PI,—all truly show selfless service.

By faithfully applying the two principles, selflessness and humility, PI workers serve their respective service committees, as well as the groups, the public and the addict who still suffers. For us to best serve those who have asked us to do so, we must keep these spiritual principles in mind at all times.