In November 1989, the Bahá’í International Health Agency, a committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, sponsored a conference in Montréal, Québec, on AIDS and the Bahá’í community. This initiated a series of consultations on Bahá’í principles and issues related to AIDS and human sexuality. A group of individual Bahá’ís met with Counsellor Wilma Ellis in June 1992, to determine how best to give ongoing support and encouragement to these consultations. As a result, the Bahá’í International Health Agency formally recognized and sponsored the establishment of the Institute on AIDS, Sexuality, and Addictions (IASA), and appointed a coordinating committee.
As consultations continued, it became clear that there were many other issues that were important to address as part of these sessions, particularly the issue of abuse. In 1995, abuse was added as an explicit focus, and the name of the initiative was changed to the Bahá’í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions, and Abuse (BNASAA). At this time, official sponsorship of the Network was transferred to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada. In the Spring of 1997, a partner organization was started in Québec called Réseau Courage (Courage Network) specifically to address similar issues for the French-speaking community. In Fall of 1999, the BNASAA Coordinating Committee was appointed as an official committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, comprised of Bahá’ís from both Canada and the United States.
The Open Circle Network is governed by a Board of Directors, which was nominated by the BNASAA coordinating committee and approved by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. The Board is accountable to the National Assembly for all activities. The Board appoints planning committees that carry out specific activities such as conferences. The Board may also provide support to local communities or to individuals in local communities that wish to sponsor local activities. Anyone wishing to sponsor local activities will be encouraged to gain the collaboration and support of local Baha’i institutions. The Open Circle Board may provide assistance to local communities such as consultation or training on best practices in carrying out events of this type. Individuals who wish to engage in personal initiatives will be encouraged to do so and will be supported through materials and advice but will not receive financial or any other administrative support from the Network Board. The website and other social media activities will be supervised by a committee directly appointed by the Board which will ensure that all online activities are carefully moderated and avoid all conflict and controversy which can be so disruptive to online activities of this kind. As new activities are developed the Board will develop the appropriate committees, work-groups or task forces to manage those activities and to ensure that they are carried out in accordance with Network guidelines.