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Grant Highlight: Navigating Transition to New GM

A new publication to help start-up cooperatives retain general managers will be unveiled at the Up & Coming Food Cooperative Conference in Madison, WI on March 6-7. The Startup Leadership Transition Handbook, authored by Jacqueline Hannah from Food Co-op Initiative and Kaye Kirsch from Firebrand Cooperative, helps cooperatives establish support, expectations and procedures to assure the transition to a full time general manager is a success.

According to Hannah and Kirsch, only one of the 15 food cooperatives opened with the help of Food Co-op Initiative in the last three years retained its initial General Manager. GM transition during the critical first three years of operations causes additional challenges for new food co-ops, putting these new businesses at risk.

A significant number of these GM failures can be prevented — and the board be far better prepared to weather them when they do happen — through better training and tools for startup boards on how to lead through the GM transition, according to Hannah and Kirsch. The Startup Leadership Transition Handbook will prepare boards with the tools, skills, plans, and foresight they need to navigate these transitions and put their GM, and their co-op, on the path to success. Hannah and Kirsch believe that, forearmed with this training and these tools, startup co-op boards will set their GMs up for long-term success and avoid their premature departure, building stronger and more resilient, successful co-ops. Firebrand Cooperative will also offer board training and retreat packages to help boards navigate through the startup leadership transition period, fully prepared and ready to support their new GM.

This project was supported by CDF's Cooperative Education Fund, Food Co-op Initiative (FCI), and the Indiana Cooperative Development Center (ICDC). Free copies, made possible by a grant from CDF, will be available for download from and hard copies will be sold at the event and online. FCI and ICDC co-host the Up & Coming Food Co-op Conference.

About the CDF Cooperative Education Fund

The CDF Cooperative Education Fund supports cooperative research, sponsors cooperative education events and scholarships, and develops cooperative education materials and programs. The Fund provides $90,000-$100,000 in grants, scholarships, and sponsorships annually. For more information about the fund or to apply for a grant go to The deadline for the 2020 Spring grant cycle is May 1.

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