This article was written by Ed Fox, General Manager of the Co-Op Food Stores and originally appeared in The Cooperator on February 28, 2017. Click here to read it on The Cooperator.
Since starting at the co-op last fall, I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of leadership throughout our organization. Some people lead with strong, bold voices. Others are quiet and stoic and lead by example. In short, there are many ways to lead. And your co-op is so well-known for leadership that the best and brightest visit us to learn by our example.
On a quiet side street not far from Baker Library on the campus of Dartmouth College, there sits the brick facade of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy. Among other things, the Rockefeller Center provides the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP), an opportunity for Dartmouth students to learn leadership skills from people in the community. Thanks to my predecessor, Terry Appleby, the Co-op is one of the organizations where Dartmouth students come to study leadership in action.
On January 27, a diverse group of Dartmouth students visited the co-op to learn from some of the best: Amanda Charland, Director of Outreach and Member Services, Bruce Follett, Director of Operations, and Jacob Vincent, Director of Merchandising. The group picked a project—reducing food waste—then visited the Hanover store and spent hours together learning about how leaders effect organizational change.
Amanda, Bruce, and Jacob gave presentations, facilitated in-depth discussions, and introduced students to other Co-op staff. Employees in our Prepared Foods Department, Produce, and Meat/Seafood all took time out of a busy day to help our student visitors with the project.
In the end, the experience was an eye-opening lesson for the students, who learned about how much forethought, planning, and tenacity it takes to lead. It was true cooperation in action: The Co-op learned from the students and the students learned from the Co-op. For example, the students learned that the Co-op donates tons of food to the needy in our community through Willing Hands, an Upper Valley nonprofit started by a Co-op employee. And thanks to the students asking good questions, the Co-op learned that a federal bill, the Emerson Good Samaritan Act, encourages the donation of food to people in need and protects those making the donations from liability.
The project went so well, the group is planning to come back and I expect more joint projects with the Rockefeller Center to follow at our other stores. To quote from a kind follow-up letter sent by the Rockefeller Center: “Students admired the community that the Co-op built amongst those who worked there because there seemed to be a shared mission and interest that everyone wanted to work toward together.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
My thanks to Amanda, Bruce, and Jacob for their work on the project, and my thanks to all of our Members for supporting the work we do here. Because of you, people see the Co-op as a training ground for future leaders. To me, that says the future is in good, cooperative hands.
Questions or feedback? Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open to you.
- Written by Ed Fox, General Manager of the Co-Op Food Stores