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Not Too Quick or Too Close

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I would like to address the Concept for substantial unanimity (part of the Twelfth Concept of OA Service), which reads, “The spiritual foundation for OA service ensures that . . . (d) all important decisions shall be reached by discussion, vote and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity; . . .” (The Twelve Concepts of OA Service, p. 13). It is a most spiritual idea, to be sure, that even the most timid, minor opinion is expressed and really listened to when we have a group conscience. It is quite a challenge to explain to newer members that substantial unanimity is not simply a majority vote.

I have been in several group conscience discussions and votes in which a person who mustered the courage to ask a couple of probing questions or take an apparently opposing view on a topic actually changed the outcome. That person shed light on some aspect of the issue that we longtimers had not even considered.

One thing I’ve learned is that if a vote is taken too quickly—if adequate discussion has not occurred prior to the vote—substantial unanimity may not be present. At times, I have asked a group whether anyone felt that maybe they did not completely understand the scope of the issue just voted on. Once I explained the concept of substantial unanimity to the group, they became willing to continue discussing the issue and then revote.

I heard another longtimer caution that if a vote is too close, then it could indicate that sufficient discussion did not occur, thus substantial unanimity did not exist.

— J., Colorado

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