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Practitioners Forum 2023 is proudly sponsored by The Co-operative Bank

Practitioners Forum 2023

Practitioners Forum 2023 – sponsored by The Co-operative Bank

Practitioners Forum took place on Thursday 23 November at The Studio in Manchester.

Thanks for being part of Practitioners Forum and making it another successful day of learning and networking. And a big thank you to our speakers, exhibitors – and of course the event sponsor, The Co-operative Bank!

Check out the photos from the event
Meet our exhibitors

Event timetable

Here's details of sessions and timings from the event (scroll down for full session descriptions).

10:00-11:10 sessions

Governance (SHINE)

The good, the bad, and the appalling: Behaviour in the board room – Sarah Patrice, Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP

Membership (RISE)

Using diverse and inclusive language – Dr Leanne Dawson, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant, author and academic

Finance (BUZZ) Digital strategy: Opportunities and risks leveraging new and emerging technology – Matt Lomax, Mazars Accountants
HR (GROW) Employee safety and wellbeing – Andrew Hall, WorkNest
Communications (WORK) Marketing mastery 101: Your ultimate refresher – Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

  • GOVERNANCE: The good, the bad, and the appalling: Behaviour in the board room

Sarah Patrice, Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP

What does a good board look like? How do we deal with difficult dynamics? How can we manage misconduct at board level? This session will cover all you need to know about dealing with board behaviour and culture issues. We will consider formal processes for dealing with complaints, as well as learning from practical examples. Sarah has worked with numerous boards on dealing with conduct procedures (names will be changed to protect the guilty!!!).

  • MEMBERSHIP: Using diverse and inclusive language for your membership

Dr Leanne Dawson, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant, author and academic

Do you sometimes feel like you want to be more supportive of individuals or groups of people but you hold back, fearful of saying the wrong thing? Do you need to use words relating to sexuality, ethnicity, mental health, disability and more when communicating with your members, but struggle to keep up to date with acceptable terminology? Perhaps you want to learn how to interject in the most helpful way when someone says something they shouldn’t? This session is all about becoming comfortable with inclusive language.

We'll be considering the ethical, legal, and business cases for using inclusive language, before diving into practical examples and simple take-home tips. Best practice with terminology, thoughtfulness around language and accessibility, and dealing with inappropriate or discriminative language use will also be covered.  

  • FINANCE: Digital strategy: Opportunities and risks leveraging new and emerging technology

Matt Lomax, Mazars Accountants

Technology is transforming the way we do business - as a strategic driver of organisational performance and innovation as well as support function. New digital technologies, such as generative AI, are emerging and evolving at a relentless pace and offer opportunities and challenges for business. Finance teams are being tasked with adopting and leveraging these technologies. Digital transformation projects have been set up in almost all organisations to automate and streamline processes and realise efficiencies, while adding value and overcoming key challenges. In this session, we will explore how digital technologies can empower finance teams to achieve objectives. We will discuss current and future trends, risks, and practical examples of how digital strategies are being developed to help drive success.

  • HR: Employee safety and wellbeing

Andrew Hall, WorkNest

Effective health and safety in the workplace (including remote working) brings tangible benefits to your co-operative, including reduced downtime, fewer absences and a strong reputation as a responsible employer. Providing your workforce with information and training on occupational health and safety is also a legal requirement. This session will cover legal responsibilities, safety and wellbeing guidance as well as handy hints and tips to help your colleagues thrive. 

  • COMMUNICATIONS: Marketing Mastery 101: Your ultimate refresher 

Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of marketing success and take your campaigns to the next level? Marketing mastery 101: Your ultimate refresher, is a no-nonsense, one-hour session designed for experienced and budding marketing professionals. In today's fast-paced digital landscape, it's crucial to revisit the fundamentals and gain fresh insights to stay ahead of the game. The session is led by the Amrit Singh, a multi-award-winning artist and creative director, from Rebel Creatives, a creative agency specialising in branding, short-form and digital training. 

You'll dive into the core aspects of marketing, focusing on the crucial elements of audience identification, compelling messaging, and strategic channel selection. Delegates will explore the art of storytelling and learn how to craft their own co-operative's unique narrative. Attendees will also learn the secrets of connecting with your target audience on a profound level, leaving a lasting impression.

11:10-11:30 Refreshment break

11:30-12:30 sessions

Governance (SHINE)

Beyond the AGM: What could modern democratic engagement look like? – Kate Brown, Jess Clarke, Mark Robinson-Field, all Co-op Group; Simon Plunkett, Central Co-op; Emma Laycock, Co-operatives UK

Membership (RISE)

Increasing and diversifying younger membership through digital content – Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

Finance (BUZZ)

Current and evolving cyber threats: An ethical hacker's guide – Yasmin Ramadan, Mazars Accountants


Insights into supporting neurodiversity in the workplace – Snoof Kattekop, The Brain Charity

Communications (WORK)

Diversity and inclusion in communications and marketing – Dr Leanne Dawson, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant, author and academic

  • GOVERNANCE: Beyond the AGM: What could modern democratic engagement look like?

Kate Brown and Jess Clarke Co-op Group; Simon Plunkett, Central Co-op; Emma Laycock, Co-operatives UK

At a time when trust in institutions and business is low, co-operative business models - based on fairness, equality and democracy - are more relevant than ever. As co-operative practitioners, we have a fantastic opportunity to show how our members can come together to achieve great things.

Join Emma Laycock, from Co-operatives UK, and colleagues from Co-op Group and Central Co-op for this workshop to consider and explore how co-operatives can encourage diverse and meaningful member engagement in their governance. Together we'll discuss what modern democratic engagement could look like; how we can share best practice; and consider exciting and innovative ways to engage members in their co-operative’s democracy.

  • MEMBERSHIP: How to Increase and diversify your younger membership through digital content

Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

Almost every business and organisation has 'young people' at the centre of their member engagement strategy. What does this mean for co-operatives? As well as having something meaningful to offer younger audiences, how can you even engage with them? In this session we look at what goes into launching youth-centric campaigns by leveraging the power of social media and technology. We will explore strategies to captivate younger audiences and effectively communicate messages to bring a younger demographic into your membership. Delegates will hear about digital innovation and discover the secrets to running successful campaigns that resonate with younger audiences in the fast-paced realm of online connectivity. 

  • FINANCE: Current and evolving cyber threats: An ethical hackers guide

Yasmin Ramadan, Mazars Accountants

Join ethical hacker, Yasmin Ramadan, for a deep dive into cyber security. Drawing on real-life examples, she'll be exploring current cyber trends, malware, ransomware and phishing, as well as looking at how your co-operative can minimise cyber attacks and improve security. 

  • HR: Insights into supporting neurodiversity in the workplace

Snoof Kattekop, The Brain Charity 

Central to the co-operative identity is the need to treat all members fairly. This can sometimes be challenging if we don't fully understand the barriers that other people may face. Snoof Kattekop from The Brain Charity will help you to better understand neurodiversity and how to support neurodivergent employees in the workplace. Attendees will come away with a better understanding of key terminology and definitions surrounding neurodiversity; the strengths and challenges of neurological conditions; the Equality Act; and law around Access to Work.

  • COMMUNICATIONS: Diversity and inclusion in communications and marketing

Dr Leanne Dawson, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant, author and academic

This workshop will consider the ethical, legal, and business cases for being inclusive in our communications, before diving in to a wide range of practical tips – both easy wins and more intricate solutions – to make our comms reach and land as widely as needed. 

After an introduction to inclusive language, we'll think about the images we use in our marketing and the effects of these on colleagues, customers and more. We'll also look at how we can work fairly with images – still and moving – if our organisation is not as diverse as we would like it to be. The session will also open up room to discuss accessibility and nuances of the digital divide, including examples of good and bad practice. Diversity and inclusion need to be firmly embedded into organisational culture, rather than merely resting on the shoulders of colleagues working in comms and marketing, and we'll examine how we can communicate this within our organisations.

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30-14:30 sessions

Governance (SHINE)

Sustainability reporting for co-ops – David Hall, MHA

Membership (RISE)

Maximising the value of your data – Sian Basker, Data Orchard

Finance (BUZZ)

Accounting for your co-operative – Patrick Morello, Third Sector Accountancy


Hybrid and flexible working best practice – Samantha Lubanzu, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Communications (WORK)

Getting creative with video: Telling your co-op story – Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

  • GOVERNANCE: Sustainability reporting for co-ops

David Hall, MHA

How do we talk about transitioning our businesses to net zero? Join David Hall, from MHA, for an introduction to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulatory standards and associated legislative requirements. As well as providing technical detail on correct ESG terminology, David will touch on forthcoming amendments to established assurance frameworks. David will also explore reporting requirements for larger scale co-operatives, in the context of new rules in 2025.

  • MEMBERSHIP: Know your members: Maximising the value of data

Sian Basker, Data Orchard

Sian Basker is co-CEO of Data Orchard, an award-winning UK social enterprise specialising in helping organisations gain value from their data in a way that benefits their members. Sian will examine the important factors around data success, and the different stages of organisational data maturity, as well as providing delegates with brilliant advice and tips around accessing vital resources and support. Attendees will also get the opportunity to be part of a live data visualisation!

  • ​​​​​​FINANCE: Accounting for your co-operative

Patrick Morello, Third Sector Accountancy

Patrick Morello, of Third Sector Accountancy, will be right on the money as he explores accounting implications and options around grants, donations and community shares. Patrick will look at the treatment of grants in accounting, and whether to defer or not to defer. The taxation of grants, with VAT and corporation tax implications, will also be put under the spotlight. And delegates will be taken through accounting rules and principles around crowdfunding, donations and community shares.

  • HR: ​​​​​​Hybrid and flexible working best practice

Samantha Lubanzu, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Join our dynamic workshop, led by leading diversity and inclusion expert and CIPD Manchester Branch Chair, Samantha Lubanzu. Delve into real-world scenarios and gain practical strategies to tackle inclusive, hybrid, workspace challenges head-on. Elevate your leadership skills, learn from peers, and leave with actionable insights to foster an inclusive, thriving, hybrid work environment. This will be an interactive and engaging workshop with real-time discussions, scenario analyses and quizzes, as well as the opportunity to get answers to your burning questions from a renowned expert.

  • COMMUNICATIONS: Getting creative with video: Telling your co-op story

Amrit Singh, Rebel Creatives

This engaging and interactive session will delve into the world of short-form video content creation from the perspective of content creators. Both fun and insightful, we will explore latest trends, from crafting captivating hooks to recording and editing on mobile devices. In an era dominated by video-centric social media platforms, it's evident that video should be a core element of any content strategy. However, the notion of video production can often seem time-consuming, costly, and intimidating, even to seasoned marketing teams with abundant resources. Amrit Singh will dispel those myths!

Attendees will discover the transformative power of empowering employees and members to create authentic video content. Amrit Singh demonstrate how you can harness this potential to craft compelling short-form videos that tell your co-operative's unique story. Demystify video content creation and unlock a world of possibilities in this session focused on unleashing your co-operative's storytelling potential through short-form video.

14:30-15:00 Refreshment break

15:00-16:10 sessions

Governance and Membership (joint session – SHINE)

Elections, AGMs and more: Using technology to encourage member engagement (joint session with Membership forum) – Emma Laycock, Co-operatives UK; and Ben Thomas, Mi-Voice

Finance (BUZZ)

Raising capital and social investment options – John Dawson, Co-operatives UK and Melanie Mills, Big Society Capital


Employment law update – Emma Bagshaw, Nexa Law

Communications (WORK)

How and why you should add audio and podcasts to your comms strategy – Clare Savory, ASFB Productions

  • GOVERNANCE & MEMBERSHIP: ​​​​​Elections, AGMs and more: Using technology to encourage member engagement

Emma Laycock, Co-operatives UK and Ben Thomas, Mi-Voice

Join Emma Laycock, Head of Co-operative Advice, to hear about the latest best practice guidance around elections and member engagement. She’ll be joined by Ben Thomas, Director of Mi-Voice - Democracy Technology Ltd, who will host a discussion on the use of technology in enhancing membership engagement during democratic events conducted by co-ops. The session will explore the role of technology in improving processes such as voting in elections, annual member meetings and AGMs. It will also examine how adopting an 'outcome-based' approach to elections, supported by technology, can lead to increased engagement and a broader pool of candidates, while ensuring inclusivity. 

  • FINANCE: Raising capital and social investment options

John Dawson, Co-operatives UK and Melanie Mills, Big Society Capital

Could social investment hold the key to increasing impact and building long term resilience in your organisation? Join John Dawson, Co-operatives UK's Head of Market Development, and Melanie Mills, Head of Social Sector Engagement at Big Society Capital, for an interactive session covering everything from community shares to loans and bonds. Together, we'll explore the role of social investment as part of your co-operatives funding/finance toolkit. We'll look at common myths and preconceptions alongside real-life case studies and insights from leaders who have been through the process. We welcome participation in this session so bring your questions and challenges!

  • HR: Employment Law Update

Emma Bagshaw, Nexa Law

Emma Bagshaw, employment and immigration lawyer at Nexa Law, will examine recent and upcoming changes in employment law and implications for businesses. The spotlight will be placed on those areas having most impact on co-operative businesses. 

  • COMMUNICATIONS: How and why you should add audio and podcasts to your comms strategy 

Clare Savory, ASFB Productions

The term 'podcast' is very much on trend. But it is not all celebrities and big brands making use of this popular comms channel. Internal and member led organisations are also tapping into podcasting as a relatively low-cost strategy to inform, educate and entertain. Whether you're looking to share content with your members or to the wider world, expert podcast producer Clare Savory, of ASFB productions, offers 15 things to think about in this specialist 'co-operative skills' session. From dispelling myths about tech, to understanding hosting platforms, to finding the right platform and strategy for your co-op, there's plenty to dig into. Prepare to be inspired!

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