Speakers and sessions

We put together a superb line-up of speakers for Practitioners Forum 2018 - which took place in Manchester on 22 November - across our five specialist forums of communications, finance, governance, HR and membership.


The keynote speaker for Practitioners Forum 2018 was Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, Chief Executive of charitable social care enterprise Turning Point, cross bench peer and independent non-Executive Director of Co-op Group. Victor's inspirational insights on ‘The Business of Social Change’ acted as the perfect precursor before delegates split off to attend their chosen first forum. 


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.

Using Brand as a Business Tool - Rupinder Ashworth

Your brand represents all that you stand for and everything you want your business to achieve. This session offers a down to earth approach to branding. Centred around identifying the role of your brand in what you do every day and why you do it, this hands-on session gioes beyond simple 'advertising' and is designed to give delegates the tools they required to grow reputation and footfall. Attendees will leave with a clear set of tools which they can apply to their co-op's brand - and everything it stands for - to help drive business through good decision making.

Breathing Digital into your Business - Zoe Lawrie, The Co-operative Bank

Your audience, customers, users and suppliers are already living a digital life. From cottage industries to community enterprises, this whistlestop tour will demonstrate how your co-operative can take advantage of the ever-changing digital landscape. The session will cover easy ways to connect with existing and potential customers; quick tips to upgrade your presence online; and a few best practice stories from established brands to inspire and learn from. Note, there will be an assumption that your co-op already has a website!

Making Your Social Media Meaningful - Greg Ashton, Reason Digital

Ever wondered why that tweet generated no interaction (or even RTs)? Or why that Facebook message failed to spark any conversations? And what is good social media content? Reason Digital's Dan Ashton will help delegates get the most out of their social media channels. His session will include strategies and top tips around: growing your social media following; creating great content; and generating meaningful conversations.

More bang for your buck: Running Effective Campaigns on a Budget - Oli Watts, East of England Cooperative

In 2017 East of England Co-op became the first UK retailer to sell non-perishable goods past their best before date using slogans such as 'It’s not nice to get dumped'. The 'Small Things, Big Difference' campaign sparked a national debate, featuring on multiple radio phone-ins, attracting national and international media attention and winning a prestigious Grocer Gold award - despite being low cost. In this practical session, Oli will provide advice on planning and delivering effective campaigns, with tips on maximising exposure and getting the most ‘bang for your buck’.


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.

KPMG Accounting and Tax Update - KPMG's Steve Abbott, Luke Ryan and Steve Townsend

KPMG's tax and accounting experts will provide a technical update on emerging developments in accounting, reporting and regulatory requirements, coupled with an update on recent tax changes - including the forthcoming introduction of 'Making Tax Digital'.

Economic Trends - Denis Tatarkov, KPMG

Join one of KPMG's economics team, Dennis Tatarkov, to learn about how the economy has performed over the last year with predictions for the future, including how the outcome of Brexit might impact on the economy.

Co-operative and Community Capital - Ged Devlin, Power to Change

Institutional funding in community shares has increased five-fold over the last 12 months to £2m. This trend is set to continue through the Community Shares Booster Programme and other public funding bodies, including ethical investment funds, banks, charities and more, investing in community shares. In this session, through case studies and real life examples, Ged will examine how institutional investment can help co-operatives pursue a fairer form of equity finance to support business growth and development.

Developing KPIs to Support Your Co-op's Growth and Business Performance - John Sandford, Co-operative Performance Committee (CPC); Shelagh Everett, Cooperatives UK

This interactive session introduces the latest guidance framework developed by the CPC. Complementing the Narrative Reporting Framework launched in 2017, the Guidance on Co-operative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is is a question-based, flexible framework that can be used by all co-operatives irrespective of size, shape or sector. It challenges how well KPIs are aligned to delivering against any given co-op's purpose, mission and strategy. Note: This is a joint-session running across both the finance and governance forums.


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.

Getting Boards to Work - Ashley Harshak, TELOS

How can we make a co-operative's board of directors more effective? Ashley will reveal the results and recommendations from his extensive research in this interactive, practical session. Themes will include effective member engagement, succession planning and board behaviours. This interactive session will also give delegates the opportunity to experience some of the different techniques and approaches used in Ashley's research.

The Code for Effective Governance - Emma Laycock, Co-operatives UK

This session will examine how best to apply the newly revised Co-operatives UK Code of Governance to improve the effectiveness of any co-op. Delegates will be invited to comment on the principles of the Code and plans for this important governance tool to be applicable to all co-ops. Emma will also cover off the work of the Co-operative Governance Expert Review Panel and guidance for co-ops of all sizes.

Legal Update - Anthony Collins Solicitors' Rose Klemperer and David Alcock

When it comes to legal framework post-Brexit what do we know, what do we not know yet and what might change? Experts from Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP will provide a legal update taking in the huge complexity surrounding Brexit. Rose and David will also examine co-op case law with a focus on the winding up process and the need to be careful when it comes to society rules. And when saying something out loud can have absolutely no effect... the spotlight will also turn on the pitfalls of varying contracts.

Developing KPIs to Support your Co-op's Growth and Business Performance - John Sandford, Co-operative Performance Committee (CPC); Shelagh Everett, Cooperatives UK

This interactive session introduces the latest guidance framework developed by the CPC. Complementing the Narrative Reporting Framework launched in 2017, the Guidance on Co-operative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a question-based, flexible framework that can be used by all co-operatives irrespective of size, shape or sector. It challenges how well KPIs are aligned to delivering against any given co-op's purpose, mission and strategy. Note: This is a joint-session running across both the governance and finance forums.


This forum enables those responsible for HR - whether dedicated HR professionals or managers with HR responsibilities - to share innovation and learning from industry experts. This year's HR stream is set to the themes of diversity and inclusion. Speakers and session titles are outlined as below. Expanded details on the sessions to follow.

Inclusive Leadership - Sharon Pegg, Northern Powerhouse Consulting Ltd

This session will focus on the need for business goals to be supported by a diversity and inclusion strategy - and how this links into every day team decision-making. Sharon will examine how we process and make unbiased decisions and reveal how to build a diverse team which embraces organisational values and supports the creation of a positive culture.

Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace - Kellee Torr, Head of HR, Central England Co-op

Kellee will present a case study showcasing how Central England Co-operative has increased its focus on gender equality in order to  improve the organisation's gender pay position. Kellee will also share her practical experience of promoting diversity in the workplace. 

Equal Opportunities and Recruitment - Emma Bagshaw, Consultant Senior Solicitor

Employers understand the benefit of attracting a diverse workforce, but how can this be achieved in a shrinking talent pool? A positive approach to diversity allows you to select the best person for the job based on merit - but experts are questiojing whether this is enough to create diversity. In this workshop delegates will explore what ‘diverse’ means and what barriers to equal opportunities can exist within the recruitment process. Emma will examine the methods organisations use to overcome these barriers with a focus on positive recruitment, unconscious bias, adjustments for disabled candidates and blind CVs.

Gender Pay Roundtable - Emma Bagshaw, Consultant Senior Solicitor

This session will allow delegates to share their co-operatives’s experiences in tackling the gender pay gap and promoting diversity. Conversations will also turn to some of the initiatives used by companies across the UK - and whether these present viable options for improving diversity. This session will also provide vauable networking opportunities.  


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.

Authentic Campaigning and Engaging a Younger Audience - Katie Cosgrave, RECLAIM Project

How do you reach your target audience through campaigning? This practical session will help delegates put together authentic, effective campaigns targeted at a younger demographic. As well as a 'youth led' approach, Katie will explore techniques around identifying who really benefits from campaigns, as well as reaching the 'unreachable’ to ensure a diverse audience.

Community Action, Community Impact - Mike Pickering, Midcounties Co-operative

Playing a full part in your community is one of the Co-operative Principles. It's also good for business. Mike will delve into Midcounties' new regional community programme; the methodology behind the programme; its development; and most importantly, the increased impact made by colleagues and members towards building strong local communities.

Creating a member journey map - Katherine Wastell, The Co-op

What is journey mapping and how can it improve member engagement? Katherine will cover the theory behind journey mapping approach and how it can be utilised as an important member engagement tool. In this interactive session delegates will create a 'real' membership journey map as they put into practice an approach that can reinvigorate members' connection with their co-op. 

Unlocking member value through increased participation - Mark Robinson-Field and James Oliver, The Co-op

Mark and James will share their successes, failures and learning from using 'member journeys' and other tools to explore, understand and improve member engagement. From packaging and waste discussions, to beer and wine reviews (and also a look at the technology used to assist with engagement) Mark and James will provide practical examples and insights into how member journeys can work for any co-operative.

We are delighted that Practitioners Forum 2018 was sponsored by Co-op Insurance.

"We’re one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, owned by millions of members. We’re the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer with more than 2,500 local, convenience and medium-sized stores. We’re also the UK’s number 1 funeral services provider, a major general insurer and a growing legal services business."