[TheThinkTank] How Were Your Organizational Transitions?

Jean-François Caron jfcaron3 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 22 08:14:36 PDT 2020


The AMS Bike Co-op & The Bike Kitchen at UBC in Vancouver went through 
two such transitions.

One was a transition on the Bike Kitchen (DIY social enterprise bike 
shop) from worker-run to having a formal manager.   The transition was 
forced by the volunteer board of directors of the AMS Bike Co-op 
(student club under the university's student union) who officially have 
authority over the Bike Kitchen.  It was not a friendly transition, but 
it was deemed necessary since the business was basically failing.  There 
was not enough coordination between stocking supplies, parts, scheduling 
shifts, and pricing policy.  We (I was one of the directors) made the 
seniormost existing mechanic into a manager, and some mechanics left as 
a result.  IIRC they left explicitly because they only wanted to work in 
a worker collective context.  Since then, a new manager has been hired 
as a joint effort between the outgoing Bike Kitchen manager, employees, 
and the AMS Bike Co-op.

The other transition was on the AMS Bike Co-op side.  We're still 
technically a student club under the university student union, but in 
addition to the volunteer board of directors, we have now had permanent 
paid staff for many years.  We initially only had temporary student 
labour paid out of grants, but at some point we passed a student levy 
that greatly increased our funding.  Our initial move was to hire an 
"Executive Director" permanent employee.  The title was just chosen 
because that's what we saw other non-profits using, but it turned out to 
be a problem because it implies global scope and it gave directors the 
wrong idea about what their job was, and the contract was too vague so 
everything became their job.  We renegotiated a contract with the title 
changed to "Programs Manager" along with other terms to make it more 
clear what was the scope of the job, and things went pretty well from 
there.  The Programs Manager managed the various outreach, volunteer, 
and collaboration programs, and also hired other permanent staff as 
needed.

My little summary probably grossly oversimplifies things.  If anyone 
adds further details that contradicts some of what I said, I assume 
responsibility for misremembering.

Jean-François

On 2020-06-19 8:39 p.m., Carlyn Arteaga wrote:
>    We are paid-staff-run but still consensus-based and mostly still 
> sales-via-donations sustained. I wasn't around during the transition, 
> though, so I can't help much on that front. But happy to answer any 
> specific questions about how we make it work.
> ~Carlyn
> 
> On Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 1:29 AM Dennis Wollersheim <dewoller at gmail.com 
> <mailto:dewoller at gmail.com>> wrote:
> 
>     I would also like to hear about this.  Our organisation is trying to
>     hire a manager for the first time, and I can see it will be
>     difficult for the board / senior volunteers to let go of control. 
>       I get exasperated when the board spends an hour discussing the
>     wording of a social media post.  In my view, these should be
>     procedural issues, dealt with by the manager.  It will be a painful
>     transition, I reckon.
> 
>     Cheers
>     Dennis
> 
>     On Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 9:13 AM Thomas Butler
>     <thomas.unavailable at gmail.com <mailto:thomas.unavailable at gmail.com>>
>     wrote:
> 
>         I’m interested to hear from people whose organizations made
>         transitions from:
> 
>         volunteer-centric to staff-centric
> 
>         all-donation to grant-(or retail-)funded
> 
>         consensus-run to exclusive/majoritarian board (or something else)
> 
> 
>         In particular what were peoples’ objections to the transition?
>         What problems or pitfalls were there? Did the shop lose its
>         independence? What net-negatives were there (even if
>         overwhelmingly outweighed by all the positives?)
> 
> 
>         Please feel free to reply to my personal email here if there’s
>         something you don’t want to put on blast:
> 
>         thomas.unavailable at gmail.com <mailto:thomas.unavailable at gmail.com>
> 
> 
>         My interest is not regarding articles of incorporation or how to
>         fill out 501c3 paperwork. (there are threads on those topics in
>         TheThinkTank archives
>         <http://lists.bikecollectives.org/pipermail/thethinktank-bikecollectives.org/>
>         if anyone is curious). Your testimonial is likely more relevant
>         if your organization's incorporation is far in the past relative
>         to its transition(s).
> 
> 
>         Thank you all so much for the work you do in your own
>         communities and for the work you do in this community of ours.
> 
> 
>         Thomas Butler
> 
>         he | they
> 
>         Austin’s Yellow Bike Project
> 
> 
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> 
> 
>     -- 
>     -- 
>     -------------------------------------------
>     Dennis Wollersheim
>     -------------------------------------------
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> 
> 
> -- 
> 
> *Carlyn Arteaga*
> 
> /pronouns: they/them/theirs/
> 
> Youth Program Coordinator____
> 
> *BICAS____*
> 
> 2001 N. 7th Ave. | Tucson, AZ 85701 | Shop: 520-628-7950__
> 
> carlyn.arteaga at bicas.org 
> <mailto:carlyn.arteaga at bicas.org> |www.bicas.org 
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