Literature Committee Guidance to GSB, Initial Program Literature

The situation:

Hallie, the UA archivist, has recently identified the following eight things created by the founders in the early days of the program:

  1. Brochure – “Underearning and Our Thinking” #2
  2. Brochure – “About UA” #1
  3. Symptoms of UA (sic)
  4. Tools of UA (2006)
  5. Time Sheet
  6. UA logo
  7. Wallet Card – “Are You and Underearner?” (sic)
  8. UA Meeting Registration form

Obviously, the program had no world service conference at the time. Nevertheless, the group of five founders decided to label this literature “conference approved.”

UA has now matured to the point where we have an actual world service conference, which has begun to formally approve literature.

This leaves a question in some people’s minds about the status of this early literature, and the GSB has asked the literature committee for guidance.

Committee Guidance to GSB

The literature committee is very grateful to the founders for all their efforts in establishing the program, but all literature dealing with recovery needs to be formally approved by the group consciences of the literature committee, the GSB, and the world service conference, whereupon it is given the designation “conference created literature.”

This approach has been adopted by all three bodies to ensure that all recovery-related literature, regardless of its historical status, is in accord with program principles before it is published by the GSB.

However, please note that if full approval has not yet been obtained for a specific piece of literature, this does not prevent is use by members of the program in their recovery.

The rationale for this guidance is laid out below.


“Conference approved literature”

The general principle of twelve step programs is that recovery literature published by their service arms should first be approved by their respective world service conferences to ensure that it accords with the program’s principles.

While approving the “Principles of the Literature Committee,” the 2013 world service conference extensively debated the term “conference approved literature,” and eventually decided to drop this term, instead using “conference created literature.” (See

The adopted literature committee principles specifically identify service literature, worksheets and templates as  not requiring approval by the world service conference (along with literature created by other 12 Step programs). They also reiterate the program traditions that substantial unanimity is required for the approval process, and that principles be placed before personalities.

So the term “conference approved literature” has no meaning within UA. Once literature created on behalf of UA is approved by the world service conference, it is designated “conference created literature.”

Absence of “conference approval”

In the literature committee principles, the world service conference has given the specific guidance that:

“any member of UA can read anything any time anywhere for any purpose. And any Group can determine for itself by Group Conscience that a specific piece of literature conforms to the principles of UA and is thus acceptable to be read at that meeting. Likewise, any Group or Intergroup can determine by Group Conscience what literature to provide for sale to its members.”

This principle is often misunderstood, but it is line with the approach of other 12 Step programs, notably AA (for example, see this summary of the issue in AA:


In fact, the term “conference approved literature” doesn’t seem to have been used much in practice. The printed version of the brochure “About UA” is labeled “This is UA GSB, Inc. Conference-approved literature,” but that is absent from the current online version. On the website, only the UA Meeting Registration form contains a reference to it being “conference approved literature.”

No other documents appear to have been be labeled “conference approved literature.” Some of the other documents are labeled “UA Literature Committee,” suggesting this is the name the founders used for their committee (but that should be confirmed with the archivist!).

What needs approval

In preparing for the 2013 world service conference, it was the consensus of the literature committee that since there had been no conferences prior to 2012, all existing literature needed to be reviewed and approved by the conference (or a subsequent one), following group conscience review and approval first by the literature committee and then by the GSB.

When the literature committee was considering which pieces of literature to take to the conference for approval, it was assisted by another founder. He was in agreement with the approach that all literature needed to go to the WSC for approval. Interestingly, he specifically argued that “Underearning and Our Thinking” had not stood the test of time, and as such was not ready to go to the conference (persuading the rest of the committee:

The approval process

The approval process includes the need for review and approval of all (recovery) literature by the literature committee, the GSB, and finally the world service conference, to ensure it is in accord with UA principles. This process has been approved by the group consciences of the literature committee and the GSB, but not yet by the world service conference.

However, the WSC has implicitly acknowledged its role in the process, as well as the need for it to review and approve all (recovery) literature, by reviewing and approving the first three pieces of literature—the Tools, the Symptoms, and the “About UA” brochure—all of which have been in use for years and appear on Hallie’s list.

Significantly, the approval process involved updating the text of “About UA,” to bring it into line with program principles. The text of the Tools was also modified.

Publication by the GSB

The literature published by the GSB on the UA website, is largely random:

  • The Literature page is a mix of program literature, service literature, worksheets and templates, in no particular order.
  • It includes documents copied from other programs, and what appear to be first drafts.
  • Almost all the documents suffer from typos and grammatical errors.
  • Most have the full names of the writers (or their companies) embedded in them, a violation of anonymity.

It is far from clear what (if any) approvals were obtained to publish most of these files, nor whether they are completely in accord with program principles. The GSB itself only recently gained control of the website and its contents.

The literature committee

The current goals of the literature committee are, in order of priority:

  1. to declutter the Literature page of the website, sorting it out and clearly identifying the approval status and intended usage of each piece;
  2. to publish pieces from the website in physical form (the committee began this process last year, in partnership with other UA bodies);
  3. to create new literature, and guide it through the approval process.

Hallie’s List

Of the archivist’s list, “About UA,” the Symptoms and the Tools have since been approved by the world service conference, and as such are now designated “conference created literature.” The “UA Meeting Registration” form and the “Time Sheet” are service literature or templates, and thus conference approval is not applicable. If anything, the logo should probably be registered as a service mark (the equivalent of a trademark), but again, conference approval as recovery literature is not applicable.

The text of “Are You an Underearner” is missing from the website. (Note that the apparently unfinished “UA Newcomer Pack” contains a list that may be derived from this, but that is a question for the archivist.)

This just leaves “Underearning and Our Thinking:” it is likely that this, along with the other usable literature from the website, will be presented for approval at a future world service conference, although possibly in substantially modified form, depending on the decisions of the group conscience.

Practical Impact

None: seven of the eight pieces described by Hallie are already published by the GSB, physically or on the website, though the eighth is missing. As noted, the UA program places no limits on what what UA members may choose to read.

  1. “Underearning and Our Thinking” – none: this document will remain on the website for the foreseeable future (although it may be updated by the literature approval process)
  2. “About UA” – this has been approved by the World Service Conference of 2014 (with updated text; the new version will be published in due course)
  3. Symptoms of UA – this has been approved by the World Service Conference of 2014 (note this is correctly titled “Symptoms of Underearning”)
  4. Tools of UA – this has been approved by the World Service Conference of 2014 (with updated text; the new version has been published, and will be updated on the website in due course)
  5. Time Sheet – this is a template/worksheet, and conference approval is not applicable
  6. UA logo – this is a logo, and conference approval (as literature) is not applicable
  7. Wallet Card – “Are You and Underearner?” – this document is missing (the literature committee is working on just such a list; if the missing text is found, it will be incorporated in our efforts; it may or not take the form of a wallet card)
  8. UA Meeting Registration form – this is a template/worksheet (or maybe service literature), and conference approval is not applicable
This entry was posted in GSB, Literature Committee. Bookmark the permalink.