2019 speakers and sessions

We've confirmed a superb line-up of speakers for Practitioners Forum 2019 - which will take place in Manchester on 7 November - across our five specialist forums of communications, finance, governance, HR and membership


This forum focuses on communications and marketing best practice for co-operatives and is relevant to those involved in everything from internal comms to digital marketing.

When will I be famous? Generating broadcast media coverage for your co-op - Josh Wheeler, Good Broadcast UK

Your co-op might be used to featuring in local papers, but how can you get the attention of radio and TV broadcasters?
In this session delegates will pick up tips on: how to pitch your story to broadcast journalists; building relationships with busy producers; what makes a good case study; giving a ‘good interview’; and managing media in multiple locations.

The secrets of effective email marketing - Catherine Wilson, London North Eastern Railway (LNER)

Most co-ops will use marketing emails to communicate with members and customers, but do they have an effective email marketing strategy? We’ll look at what you need to consider when creating your email marketing strategy; how to create great content; growing a database that can be used to drive sales or raise awareness of your co-op; and segmenting your database to create messages that are relevant to your audience. We’ll also consider the impact of GDPR.

Inclusive communications – avoiding unconscious bias - Jana Mills, Small Axe

We all know that communications should be accessible and inclusive. Indeed, many of us will be familiar with the technical tools that we can utilise to ensure messages are open to the broadest possible audience such as large fonts, contrasting colours, captions, translation and use of BSL and Makaton interpreters. But how does unconscious bias affect the way we communicate? This session will examine how we can build a narrative which is inclusive of people from marginalised/minority communities and how co-ops lead the way. 

To podcast or not to podcast? - Mel Harris, Sparklab Productions

Podcasts are booming in the UK, with nearly six million adults now tuning in each week – a figure which has almost doubled in the last five years. The fastest growing audience is among young people – a group that is traditionally under-represented within the co-op movement. Should co-ops join the podcast revolution? This session, delivered by industry experts Sparklab Productions, explains what to consider, content planning, how to get started, funding options and how to grow your audience.


A unique examination of key finance issues in co-operative businesses, this forum provides professional development for all those responsible for accounts and the finance function.

The Bristol Pound Experience - Diana Finch, Bristol Pound

This session will be of interest to anyone seeking to develop a local currency system, or who wants to find ways to influence the development of their local economy.  Diana will talk about the aims of the Bristol Pound project, its early development and growth, the learnings from the first seven years of operation, and the organisation’s plans for the future.

KPMG tax update - Steven Abbott & Ellen Feetum, KPMG

KPMG’s tax experts will provide a technical update on emerging developments - including the increasing role of technology in tax. An update on recent tax changes will also be provided. This will include an update on the Chancellor’s Budget if it has taken place prior to 7 November. 

UK economic outlook - Dennis Tatarkov, KPMG

Join KPMG senior economist Dennis Tatarkov to discuss the main factors influencing the UK economy and outlook for the next two years. The talk will cover issues including the state of public finances; consequences of a potential global slowdown; and how the outcome of Brexit might impact the UK economy.

Is it time the Co-op Movement had its own SORP? - John Sandford and Vivian Woodell, CPC

Increasingly, International Accounting Standards are applying the lens of investor-ownership to accounting standards, meaning that the things that make co-ops special and different are unable to be reported in a way that makes sense to members. Last year an international forum of co-op accountants called for the creation of a new set of accounting standards which address the needs of co-operatives (a co-operative statement of recommended practice, or SORP). Co-operatives UK has drafted a motion to the ICA's General Assembly this year, seeking to extend this to the international level. This workshop will hear about the drivers behind this initiative, and will include a discussion of the idea and how it might work in practice, focusing on how reporting on value for members should work.


A specialist stream exploring successful governance for co-operatives, this forum is geared towards secretaries of co-operatives and those involved in corporate administration and governance.

The nuts and bolts of sociocracy: An exploration of how co-ops are using this set of tools and principles that ensure shared power - Mark Simmonds, Co-op Culture and Linda Barlow, Co-ops UK

This session will provide delegates with an introduction to sociocracy and explore how co-ops are using this system of governance to ensure shared power among stakeholders. This is a participatory session that will bring sociocracy to life. Could your co-op adopt the sociocracy principles?

The ownership stake: Engaging employees - Carole Leslie

Co-ops thrive on engagement - with consumers, communities and other stakeholders. Are we doing enough to engage our employees?  Is employee ownership - in whatever form - an option for co-ops?  This session explores the various forms of employee ownership and examines what might fit with co-op organisations. 

Hearing the voice of members: member bodies and cooperative governance - David Alcock, Anthony Collins Solicitors, Ross Hodgson, Suma and Tim Morgan, Shared Interest Society

This session will look at the role of member councils in a co-operative, in particular how they can contribute to member participation and promote good governance. We will consider how member bodies can combine democratic accountability with greater involvement. We will also hear from two co-operatives who will provide case study detail on their use of a member council.

The importance of member inductions - TBC

To be confirmed


This forum enables those responsible for HR - whether dedicated HR professionals or managers with HR responsibilities - to share innovation and learning from industry experts. Speakers and session titles are outlined as below. Expanded details on these sessions to follow.

An introduction to employee well-being - Sharon Pegg, Northern Powerhouse Consulting

The term ‘well-being’ seems to be everywhere at the moment, but what does it actually mean and why is it important for your co-op? We’ll take a look at what it actually is, how it impacts businesses and individuals and get an understanding of what some others are doing to improve employee well-being in their organisations.


Session to be confirmed

Promoting Colleague Well-being at Lincolnshire Co-operative - Heather Lee, Rachel Ashmore and Jeff Law, Lincolnshire Co-operative

With around 2800 colleagues and a history of more than 150 years, Lincolnshire Co-op is one of the most successful independent consumer co-operatives in the UK. The Executive at Lincolnshire see the maintenance of a successful well-being strategy as a key tool in the retention and engagement of employees and the running of a successful business. Heather Lee, Head of People and Performance, and Rachel Ashmore, Engagement Adviser, will take us through how they link their well-being strategy to their business-wide strategy to help make their co-op both a successful business and a great place to work. 

How to use what you already know to shape a wellbeing programme - Paul Caudwell, Co-operative Group

You’ve heard the business case for employee well-being and how some co-ops have successfully promoted this. Now we want you to be able to go away and put it into practice. In this final session of the day we’ll share with you some basic tips to help you to get started on a well-being programme within your co-op. We’ll look at the types of information that you’ll already have available that can help you to shape a well-being programme and talk you through some tips on how to get that programme up and running within your co-op. 


Members are the lifeblood of co-operatives. From campaigning to recruitment and from retention to participation, this stream is all about effectively engaging with members.

The Totally Locally Fiverfest - Engaging communities through grassroots campaigns - Chris Sands, The Good Co

The Totally Locally model has caused a revolution on Britain’s high streets, with its simple message of the impact each of us spending just £5 in local independent businesses could have on the local economy, communities and livelihoods.  The ‘Fiverfest’ campaign was rolled out in xx towns and cities across the UK and has now spread as far as Australia!  Find out what made this campaign so popular, how it’s been adapted for local communities across the UK and the world and the impact it’s had on independent business.

Understanding member value to increase engagement - James Roberts, MemberWise Network

Members often cite a lack of value as a reason for leaving. Taking a more structured and practical approach to both delivering and being able to communicate enhanced member value to current and prospective members will result in increased recruitment and retention. This session unpacks the underlying principles around member value and will help those responsible for member engagement apply these to their own work.

The NUDGE Approach: the changing nature of member engagement - Maria Borstnar, Nudge2Engage

It’s one thing having members supportive of your co-operative’s mission - it’s quite another engaging them or changing their behaviours. This session will provide forum practitioners with insights into human psychology and behaviour. Focusing on the ‘nudge’ approach and providing you with practical guidance on how to positively engage members with your co-operative, this session will help you improve membership recruitment, increase engagement in elections and other forms of member participation. 

Best practice share: working with charity partners - TBC

Session details to be finalised.

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