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development of our literature process

Collaboration on literature for the fellowship, such as a Basic Text, a book of Daily Reflections, and pamphlets that address special topics
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* Respect, kindness, patience and other good virtues encouraged
* Let's place principles before personalities
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Scott
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:53 pm

development of our literature process

Post by Scott »

I fully expected to have difficulties in this learn-as-we-go, trial-and-error process and was sure it would be fine to wing it for a small project or two. My comments here are not a criticism of the process or anyone involved in it. This post is about learning lessons, making improvements, trying new things, and setting it all down in writing so that we develop clear written process and don't have to relearn the same lessons.

Things learned from our literature development so far:

(1) Doing every bit of the work (evaluation, editing, revising, word-smithing, approving) by a constantly changing committee/workgroup is tedious, repetitive, very slow, sometimes painful, and somewhat discouraging.

This was true for both of the small projects we've done so far. We need to learn and adapt. It would hurt us to keep doing it the same way even for small projects, never mind trying it for the larger ones.

In 2017, the Literature Committee discussed requirements, such as game-free time, for literature. Rather than have across-the-board requirements, we talked about having low requirements for contributing ideas or pieces (because any newcomer can add valuable insight into writing an understandable piece) and using the higher requirements for editing pieces and pulling them into a whole. Much of what I'll suggest is about making the editing team more sensibly organized, effective, and efficient.

(2) We learned that having a constantly changing group of people trying to do the editing is extremely slow and can be counter-productive. Several times we had misunderstandings about the purpose pulling a piece in different directions.Much time was spent reviewing the purpose and audience of a piece over and over and over again. A piece needs a small dedicated team of editors who understand the purpose/audience/vision and work together instead of at cross-purposes.

(3) All of us have various strengths and weaknesses, skills and stumbling blocks. One highly valuable and utterly necessary skill in pulling various contributions together and editing them into a whole is the ability to see things from another's point of view, respect and value a variety of perspectives, and mentally hold various views simultaneously. We need this skill on the editing team. Even one single voice regularly saying, "No, that's not how I see it so it's wrong," or "No, that's not what I experienced so it's wrong," can bring progress to a screeching halt.

(4) Good, positive, encouraging feedback to writers is an invaluable part of this process, as it can provide motivation, learning, and higher quality. When a large assortment of volunteers critique a piece, it is inevitable that there will be some feedback stated in unhelpful and sometimes hurtful ways. Some feedback on a first draft is too nit-picky about wording or does not match the purpose/audience of the piece. We can put a layer between people commenting and authors by having the editors digest the comments first and pass along positive, encouraging, relevant feedback.

(5) It is awesome to have writings from contributing members from around the world. Once put into the hands of an editing team who is integrating and word-smithing, it seems best to have native speakers of the language, just as our future translation projects will undoubtedly be put into the hands of native speakers.

I've been compiling these ideas for an editing team and putting together a flow chart for the overall flow of written material from the fellowship to Literature Committee and their editors off to the GSC and back to the fellowship for feedback that informs GSC approval.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about the process, any other lessons to learn from our experience so far, and ideas about how to make the best literature in a pleasant, enjoyable process. It won't all be fun, but there is much we can do to make it more efficient and therefore less tedious and discouraging.

Much gratitude and thanks to all who have been involved so far. I appreciate you for giving your time and hanging in there while we learn these lessons and sort out good process.
Last edited by Scott on Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
MorganF
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:46 pm

development of our literature process

Post by MorganF »

Thank you for your contribution, Scott. I think there are some good, constructive ideas in here. I also felt, too, that your offering was a bit critical in a potentially unconstructive manner. It is cleanly written and I do appreciate your not naming any names as you proceeded through your critique of how we have conducted ourselves these past 2 years. However, your writing came across to me as being a critique of everyone but you. It would have been helpful for me if you had highlighted some instances or examples of where you had made some mistakes. Similarly, it felt to me like the tone of your contribution was authoritarian in nature, and that doesn't really quite fit for me when coming from someone who a chairperson in a 12 Step Fellowship. To that end, I would have appreciated an approach that was less like telling us how it is and more like telling us how you felt or observed things to be.

I am also saddened, as the outgoing chairperson, that you have waited until now to share all of this. It sounds to me like you have a lot of valuable ideas about how we could do things better as well as some good observations about problems that have been slowing down the literature process. It is possible I have forgotten- and entirely possible I or the rest of the committee steamrolled right over them when they were shared- but I can’t recall hearing any of these critiques or ideas before now. I would have appreciated hearing them sooner, if they haven’t been shared before, assuming that I would have been able to hear them.

Shifting topics, I want to acknowledge that yes, I have erred on the side of, perhaps, overly open and collaborative processes during my time as Chairperson. I approached the position like this for two reasons. First is my own controlling tendencies and the risk of me simply hijacking things. Being aware of myself and as a counter to my propensity for willfulness, I brought all of my ideas to the committee and asked the committee to decide. This worked for some things and was problematic for others. The 20 Questions survey was a good example of where I was asking too much for feedback, such that the committee voted to empower me to just go ahead and get it done.

The other reason I favored very open, collaborative writing processes is because that is what it seemed everyone else wanted. As I came into the position, it felt to me like the primary desire of everyone was not to exclude anyone- that everyone’s contribution is valuable. Open and highly collaborative seemed like the only option available, then. I think, along with this, was a strong desire for us to have unanimity as much as possible, rather than empowering one or a few people to be the ‘final’ deciders. As such, if someone had a reservation or concern, it seemed we would often stop to look closely at it and decide as a group how we wanted to adjudicate things. This played a tradeoff that both made the process slower and also made it more robust- but possibly went too far in its 'robustness.' 

After my experience with the meeting book, I have come to appreciate that a more closed, hierarchal process is necessary. We made real progress, to be sure; but the process is as you said, slow, tedious, at times discouraging and, above all else, I do not see an end to it. It has no clear pathway for closure. I look forward to discussing ways we can do better. I think looking to the 12 Concepts of Service could do us great benefit here as they help to outline ways of delegating tasks that also still allow for the fellowship to have final say. As a personal note, when we first started the Lit Com, I would have preferred a process that was more exclusive and controlled in part to avoid some of the headaches of the more open, collaborative process; but as I said before, as Chairperson, I felt an obligation to balance against my propensity for controlling things, and my desire for a more exclusive process seemed symptomatic of my desire to control.
MorganF
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:46 pm

development of our literature process

Post by MorganF »

We discussed something like this model in the meeting and there seemed to be consensus around looking at doing things this way.

Writers -> Single editor -> Reviewers -> Single Editor -> Reviewers -> Literature Committee -> GSC -> Fellowship

This assumes the piece is in the writing process. Our previous experience has taught us to work first with what Al-anon would call a "Thought Force" - Or a subcommittee that talks about the outline for the project, its intended audience, purpose, etc. Then it comes back to the lit com for approval, then off to actual writing. So the full process would look like this:

Lit Com/Project Idea -> Thought Force (outline) -> Lit Com -> Task Force (writing) -> Writers -> Single Editor -> Reviewers -> Single Editor -> Reviewers -> Literature Committee -> GSC -> Fellowship

Editor
The idea was put up to ask within the fellowship for individuals who would feel called to be an editor, then basically audition the folks who express interest. Editor needs to be trustworthy, a good grammarian, and also someone who's writing voice is agreeable to the fellowship.
Scott
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:53 pm

development of our literature process

Post by Scott »

To anyone who has been involved in the literature process, I'm sorry if anything I wrote above came across as complaining about an individual. I wasn't feeling or thinking anything like that when I was brainstorming ways to create a more formal process from our first attempts literature development.

I'm not complaining about the process either. We decided to wing it with a couple of small pieces and learn along the way. I fully expected that we'd be learning what doesn't work well with informal committee work and that we'd later decide what improvements to make.

As expected, there are parts of process that work fine by a committee that is constantly shifting in attendance and parts that need a small committed core of people. No complaints here about everyone not attending consistently, which is expected. I appreciate everyone for attending to whatever extent you do.

No complaints about having a variety of people who are across the spectrum of experience or open-mindedness or writing skills or whatever. Again, just noting that there are parts that work just fine with such variety and other parts that need a smaller core of people with relevant skills. 

Morgan, I tried reading your first post but soon saw you were taking shots at me so I stopped. I can try again later if you decide to clean it up.
MorganF
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:46 pm

development of our literature process

Post by MorganF »

Yeah I was already re-writing it when you read it. I think it is better now but I also think you will just have to do your best to read past my personality and see the principles of what I am saying. I have felt hurt and disrespected by you in the past, so I have a hard time being perfectly clean communicating with you in the present.
Skald
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:46 pm

development of our literature process

Post by Skald »

August 18, 2019


Hello Scott,  hello Morgan, 

My thanks to each of you for your dedication, contributions, and efforts as we've striven together to produce literature for the Fellowship. 

As a new member who began participating regularly in January of 2018, one of the things that really caught my attention was the very careful and deliberate nature of discussions occurring in the GSC Business Committee and also in regular recovery meetings.  I could see immediately how that desire to have consensus - or to at least to hear out a member's views on various issues - required enormous patience, insight, and dedication to certain principles.  I openly wondered how things could get accomplished in the Fellowship if consensus was the value held in the highest place. 

    As I learned more about the structure of the Fellowship, and continued to study the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,  I better appreciated that seeking to understand the will of the group is an ongoing process. That process does not preclude the Fellowship from creating sub-committees to get work done.  We've used that flexibility to make the progress we've been seeking.  

   When a group of people come together with the declared purpose of cooperating to advance a cause, create a body of work, or change the world in some way, even if there is broad agreement on the necessity for action, that same group can find it challenging to proceed as they get into the details.  This has been our challenge too. 
We who are participating each want to make a contribution.  Our contributions now can be foundations for others to build upon later.  Each of us has various insights, skills, training, aptitudes, or abilities which can help.  

    As I consider my own self, I can admit that yes l can be opinionated, and I don't always agree with my peers.  The challenge I face there is the service aspect; "Am I pushing for what I want simply as an individual because of my ego ?   How can avoid making my service participation about myself and instead focus on helping to advance the goal of the group ?"  

  The writing I'm contributing comes out of my own experience in recovery - so my ego is gratified there. I can see that I've made a contribution.  Following the tradition of CGAA's predecessor organizations, that work becomes anonymous and perhaps in the future, it may be of benefit to another person in recovery.  That is in keeping with our principles as a Fellowship.  

As you've both pointed out, challenges remain before us as we seek to get from:  A) having the ideas to:  B) completed works. 
Part of that ongoing challenge appears to me to be;  acknowledging the diversity of our views, while enabling the creation of structures and processes which allow for progress on tasks in a timely fashion. 

your comrade, 

Major 
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Jeff
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:46 pm

development of our literature process

Post by Jeff »

I'm going to weigh in here, as someone who has both been involved very significantly in the literature creation process and was there from the start, and also as someone whose attendance (mostly in the last year to 18 months) has been spotty, sometimes unavoidably, and, on occasion, due to frustration, which I have to acknowledge is my own issue. I'm working on that.

First, for me I'd characterize what we intended to do, and what we've done and are still doing, is a process of creating a reasonable process, trying it out and then modifying it to make it work better. That's not "winging it," the way I use that term. My recollection is that we wanted to get started quickly because we felt there was a current need for literature--and that's still true. So we started. We wanted to have a good process from the start, and we tried things out. The things we tried out were very reasonable, given our purposes. As we went along, we came up with both a Literature Committee process (which is currently in place and which we've been attempting to follow) and a complementary process for working with literature on the GSC. It wasn't in any way spur of the moment or random. It was all intentional. It's just that it was new, and different people had different ideas about how to start. Everyone involved has tried hard to be careful, helpful and considerate of each other's views, even though the inevitable disagreements and even a few conflicts have arisen. I think this is because the process is hard, and because we are learning, and because it takes a *lot* of time, even when it goes smoothly.

I do want to say that I appreciate what everyone has brought to the process, and I mean everyone. Example: there were times when I was frustrated because the chair was so careful to look for consensus, even backing off on things that had already been substantially decided in order to listen to someone who had different views who had not been present for a number of prior discussions. I was frustrated, but I'm not sure I was right to be. Would a less open, more controlled process have been better? Would it have been better for the chair to say, "We already decided that, we're moving forward." I actually don't think so--I think we would right now be somewhat upset if that had happened. So *my* frustration should not be a measure of whether what we did was reasonable. That doesn't mean that we can't find a way to do it better, though.

Of course, we want to keep refining the process to make it better. But let's not abandon what we have in place now until we have a decent sense how it needs to be refined (or changed).

To Scott's suggestions:

1. Requirements: Let's not think of "higher" or "lower" requirements. Let's let the requirements match the task. I think of having broad input for a start, then having people with plenty of game-free time &; time in the fellowship for revising content, and then people with writing/editing skills for editing. It might be good to have the editor make changes only to style, clarity, usage and grammar, and maybe minor changes to organization. That puts things in a well-written, grammatical and consistent style. But content changes should (I think) always be considered by more than one person (not even necessarily including the editor).

2. Lack of consistency in the group has been a problem. But it wasn't just a matter of reviewing the purpose and audience of a piece. It was that different people had different ideas about it, legitimately different views. There are a lot of ways to write literature, and there's not one correct one. Some ways are better than others for certain purposes, of course, but the way forward has to be negotiated. I'm not sure I see a way out of negotiating among different ideas. It *is* a good idea to have consistence in the group of people, but there will still be negotiation.

3. It's very important that people see other points of view. No disagreement here. People do have to bring their experience, but it's important not to assume any one person's experience is normative, and to take others' views and experience into account. Literature can't always reflect everyone's experience of every thing, and we have to look at what's common, as well as what's in common.

4. This is true, and it's a good example of why it's helpful to distinguish between discussions about purpose (first), content (second, based on purpose) and clarity, usage and grammar (editing tasks that happen after content is agreed on and writing has taken place). So this is a good reason to have a process that helps us do the tasks in order: (1) Negotiate purpose, (2) outline basic content, (3) write, (4) discuss/modify detailed content in what's written, then (5) edit (based on step 4) for style, clarity, usage and grammar.
5. Sounds good. Again, if we clarify and somewhat separate the tasks above, then we just need the editor to be a native speaker.

Maybe what we need with each piece is to have purpose(s) and audience(s) stated on the piece.

Example:
Purpose: Reflection piece to be read at a meeting to start a topic and help people come up with something relevant to share by responding or relating to it.
Audience: Meeting attendees

This would have helped us at several points. Then if someone new comes in and has a different idea about purpose and audience, it can be discussed or negotiated as such, without getting bogged down in the process of editing the piece with people talking at cross purposes.

And yes, those of us who've been involved have given a lot of time and hung in there. Kudos. This has been hard. It'll still be hard, I think, but maybe not as hard.
Last edited by Jeff on Mon Aug 19, 2019 6:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
Scott
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:53 pm

development of our literature process

Post by Scott »

More detailed discussion on the flow of literature development continues here: flowchart-for-literature-development-t2139.html
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