Sponsorship Working Group Report

Chair/Facilitator: Justine F.

The Sponsorship Working Group is a subcommittee of the Literature Committee, and holds a working call at 3 pm Eastern US on the first Saturday of every month.  

 Purpose of the Sponsorship Working Group

At the 2017 ABC, delegates approved a ballot measure asking for a review of WSO literature on sponsorship and the Fellow Travelers model. The motion noted that existing WSO literature is confusing and sometimes self-contradictory. This initiative was assigned to the Literature Committee, which told the ABC it would begin by reviewing WSO trifolds, with an aim of updating that material before testing out possible long-term changes to the BRB and other WSO literature.

In addition to reviewing literature, the Working Group has conducted WSO’s first systematic review of these issues since a 1989 WSO Sponsorship Committee issued a report that forms the basis of existing WSO literature and guidance in this area. 

Working Group Highlights for 2018:

  • The Sponsorship Working Group began meeting after the 2018 ABC/AWC in Toronto, when a workshop on sponsorship made it clear there was strong interest in reviewing ACA experience, and updating ACA literature as needed.
  • In more than six months of meetings, the working group has reviewed ACA experience with sponsorship in recent decades, compared early models cited in the BRB (especially the Fellow Traveler model, co-sponsorship, and traditional sponsorship, as well as newer models, such as a guided mentorship for newcomers in the first six weeks of attending meetings.
  • Compiled preliminary findings for the 2019 ABC.
  • Begun setting its priorities for the 2020 ABC.

Preliminary Findings by the Working Group, for Presentation to the 2019 ABC

  • Sponsorship in its varied forms is an essential part of ACA recovery. The Big Red Book references the word “sponsor” or “sponsorship” nearly 500 times, including seven references to co-sponsor. The phrase “fellow traveler” appears 27 times. In Chapter 7, the BRB’s chapter on the 12 Steps, all ACA members are urged to get and use a sponsor. “We strongly suggest getting a sponsor early on. Do not go it alone. Our experience shows that youcannotrecover in isolation.”
  • ACA has an acute sponsorship shortage. There is an almost universal anecdotal perception that few members who have worked the steps are volunteering to sponsor newcomers, and that few newcomers understand and welcome the value of seeking help from those with program experience. Although sponsorship is essential to ACA recovery, it is often unavailable.
  • The unique nature of childhood trauma contributes to the sponsorship shortage. ACA members with years of recovery experience judge themselves harshly (Trait 11) and fear that they may “damage” newcomers. Many refuse to volunteer as sponsors or Fellow Travelers. ACA newcomers, in turn, frequently fear authority figures (Trait 1). Both sides often unconsciously remain in the Laundry List patterns of isolation and poor self-esteem, rather than work together and grow in recovery.
  • ACA’s varied approaches to guide newcomers all have value, and they should be equally supported. The Fellow Traveler model, which emphasizes gentleness and equality, helps ease the heightened fear common to adult children. Co-sponsorship is important for those with program experience who have no other alternatives. Traditional sponsorship, which guides newcomers through the steps and Inner Child work, can accelerate the progress of newcomers, so long as it is performed with respect and gentleness. Finally, mentorship programs that focus on the first few months of a newcomer’s recovery can provide an important overview and lower the trust barriers for everyone.
  • The needs and deficits are so great that systemic solutions should be considered. Existing literature should be updated to provide detailed guidance and best practices (for newcomers and more experienced members). Fellowship communication should emphasize the importance of sponsorship/Fellow Traveler, etc., and workshops and other new literature might include sponsorship training programs. Intergroups, Regions, and WSO should consider collaborating on training programs that support newcomers and those new to serving as sponsors.

Working Group Goals for 2019:

  • Complete study of existing sponsorship/Fellow Traveler issues
  • Complete review of existing WSO literature and training materials
  • Draft proposed definitions of the key forms of sponsorship, Fellow Travelership, co-sponsorship, mentorship, etc.
  • Communicate with Intergroups and Regions to explore ways to support effective, coordinated outreach to the fellowship to provide better support and training for sponsors, sponsees, Fellow Travelers and mentors.

Request for Volunteers

The Sponsorship Working Group consists entirely of ACA volunteers like you. We work together in a group conscience to determine fellowship needs for new literature related to the various forms of sponsorship, co-sponsorship, Fellow Travelership, mentoring of newcomers, and literature reading groups as a process for learning about ACA.

We urge and welcome you to participate in discussions and creation of updated literature regarding these issues. To learn more about volunteering for the ACA Literature Committee, please send an email to [email protected], or [email protected].