Helping co-operatives to improve their governance – meet Zena King
Playing a crucial role at Co-operatives UK since 2007, Zena King moved into our Advice Team in 2022. Drawing upon her wealth of experience as Society Secretary, Zena brings additional experience to the team to support co-operatives to reflect on and improve their governance.
What’s your role at Co-operatives UK?
I’m a Senior Governance Advisor.
What experience do you bring to this role?
Lots! I’m a Chartered Company Secretary with more than 10 years’ experience of co-operative society governance and an academic background in law. I was Co-operatives UK’s Society Secretary for five years and before that lead the implementation of the board’s strategy and systems for reporting our achievements.
I want to help co-ops meet their potential – to play my part in demonstrating that there is a different way of doing things and that successful businesses can operate with values, principles and democracy at their core.
What other ways have you supported boards?
Well, I’ve facilitated appraisals which enable boards to reflect on their performance and then commit to plans for continuous improvement. I’ve supported boards through complex and challenging decision-making processes – equipping them to take each step with the guidance and expertise they need. Also, in developing strategic plans, policies and governance processes – and I have direct experience of leading internal audits and gap analysis exercises.
What expertise did you gain from this?
I’m skilled at guiding a non-executive board through discharging its responsibilities and effective decision making. And I have a strong track record of being accountable for regulatory compliance and implementing corporate governance best practice.
I believe passionately in continuous improvement; there are always lessons to be learnt and opportunities for growth. I’ve also learned that it’s really important to know when you need to call on an expert to help out and that having the confidence to do that leads to far better decision making.
Do you have other board experience?
I have practical experience in the boardroom too – I am a former director of Co‑operative and Community Finance, a co-op which provides vital capital to enable the sector’s growth. I currently sit on the board of Projekts MCR – a community owned skatepark in Manchester which is one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. That role helps me to remember that what I do in my day job has a real impact on the people and communities connected to the organisations that we support.
As Senior Governance Advisor, what services do you offer to support co-ops?
I offer practical solutions for co-ops to bring together corporate governance best practice and the co-operative values and principles. The scope of what I can help members with is quite broad – if in doubt, give me a shout and I’ll see what I can help with or I’ll point you in the right direction of an expert. The things that our members are coming to me for at the moment are…
I offer a range of governance advice including bespoke advice on implementing best practice guidance. I support organisations to assess the effectiveness of their governance systems and compliance with the Co-operative Corporate Governance Code. I can lead an organisation through a health check of its governance practices, make recommendations for change and work with them to create an action plan. I’ll even revisit the co-op in 6-12 months to see how the implementation is going.
I’m here to help our members understand how to ensure they have a high performing board of directors. I offer board evaluations, in-house board training, whole board effectiveness reviews, subcommittee performance evaluations, tailored skills and competency frameworks and director peer appraisals.
Society secretary support
As a Chartered Company Secretary, I can provide short, medium and long-term society secretarial support. I can step in as an interim secretary to help members through unexpected absence, recruitment; or a particular governance challenge or organisational crisis. Co-operatives UK is always on had to help members when they experience difficult times.
Internal audit services
With my experience in internal audit, I can provide a service when a member requires external and independent scrutiny of an area of their governance compliance or the policies and processes surrounding governance (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘gap analysis’).
I’m an accredited data protection practitioner and can support co-ops to ensure they’re operating in line with with data protection requirements. This ranges from providing start-up advice on ensuring data protection compliance, through to data protection gap analysis on established policies and processes. I also offer consultancy work, delivering training, drafting policies and privacy notices or producing Data Protection Impact Assessments for complex projects.
I’m here to support organisations when they need it most. I can provide the advice they need with an understanding of the co-op business model and the shared values of co‑operation.
Does your co-op need support with its governance?
If you'd like to speak to a member of our advice team to understand how we can support your co-op – about governance, HR, finance or membership – contact the advice team.