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Practitioners Forum programme

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Detailed descriptions of every session at Practitioners Forum on 18 November in Manchester.

We've made Practitioners Forum on 18 November even more accessible! In response to member demand, every session will be held ONLINE (all 20 of them).

In addition to our five specialist forums covering communications, finance, governance, HR and membership we're also staging a range of sessions on topics of interest to all co-ops.  

Click the dropdown menus for details of sessions in each forum. Delegates can mix and match sessions across the full day and will also receive access to recordings of those sessions they can't attend due to time clashes.

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Communicating your co-op's USP (10.30am to 11.30am)

John Owens and Matt Leigh (Instruct)

With the rise in new forms of ethical business, from social enterprise to B-Corps, and global companies launching high profile campaigns to highlight their ethical credentials, how can co-ops stand out? What is your co-op's USP and how can we communicate our authenticity as a point of difference? John Owens and Matt Leigh from creative agency Instruct walk through the process they follow to help organisations identify and communicate their USP, with the opportunity to ask questions and share experiences and ideas with other co-operatives.

Reaching young people through digital communications (11.50am to 12.50pm)

Matt Bell-Watson (Priestley)

The co-operative movement has evolved and spread across the world for over 175 years, but if we are to thrive for another 175 years, we need to engage more young people in co-ops – as members, customers and founders. Using digital channels and social media can help with this, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming.

From Tiktok to Instagram, Reddit to YouTube, there are more channels and more ways to reach young people than ever before. In this session, Matt Bell-Watson, the founder of digital marketing consultancy Priestley, will share his experience working with organisations such as Travelex, Met Office and the British Forces Broadcasting Service and provide practical tips for reaching young people through digital channels.

Creating online content on your phone (1.50pm to 2.50pm)

Tom Clarke, Lewis Valentine and Ryhan Haque (SharpFutures POD)

Fifty-five million people in the UK own a smartphone, and social media is a vital communications channel in any brand’s armoury. The pandemic has seen a rise in user generated content, with broadcast interviews delivered via Zoom and news footage filmed on iPhones now commonplace. So how can you create your own video content without using an expensive agency? Tom Clarke and Lewis Valentine, from youth-led social enterprise SharpFutures, will share tips on how to create compelling online content using just your phone – and in this practical workshop you’ll have the chance to put your newfound knowledge into action!

What makes a good media story (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Iain McCallum, Freelance Communications Consultant

Journalism is changing. It is becoming harder and harder to generate significant media coverage in an ever-crowded environment, with a fast-moving national narrative. Is a good press release enough? How can you shape your story to appeal to journalists? Should you offer an exclusive? Learn how to pitch your story and what content journalists really want, with PR consultant Iain McCallum.

Triple bottom line reporting: Using sustainable development goals (10.30am to 11.30am)

Colin Curtis, TBL Services Andy Young, Consultant

Agreed by 193 world leaders in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs or Global Goals, have been described as the world’s greatest action plan. As values-led businesses, co-ops are often exemplars of good practice when it comes to social and environmental impact. This session will explain how the SDGs can be used as a framework to demonstrate how UK co-operatives are contributing to a better world, with examples from other industries and regions.

A Guide to Grant Funding for Co-ops and Community Businesses (1.50pm to 2.50pm)

Cailen Kinney, Co-operatives UK

What fund-raising opportunities are available for small to medium-sized co-ops and community benefit societies looking to grow and further develop their activities (and how can you access them)? Focusing on grant funding, Cailen will explore funding opportunities and - just as importantly - funder priorities. Delegates will gain an understanding of the sorts of activities that are fundable; what funders typically are looking for; and how to prepare and write a funding bid. 

Inherited assets: A double-edged sword? (10.30am to 11.30am)

James Wright, Co-operatives UK

In many co-operatives, the current members have inherited valuable assets from previous generations. Inherited assets give co-operatives resilience and can be a valuable resource for investment. However, they can also create perverse incentives to dissolve or demutualise successful co-operatives - and can attract unwanted attention from outside. This interactive session will explore how co-operatives manage inherited assets; how they guard against perverse incentives; and whether the return of 'hostile demutualisation' should be a cause for concern in the UK co-operative sector.

Governance/legal update (11.50am to 12.50pm)

David Alcock, Anthony Collins Solicitors 

David Alcock from Anthony Collins Solicitors will update delegates on key issues which have arisen through their work with co-operatives over the last 12 months including: rule amendments and practice changes arising from the pandemic; access to member registers and dealing with member actions; and dealing with board member conduct. The session will be practical, topical and based on real life examples so delegates can keep their co-operatives up-to-date with good practice and the latest governance thinking.

Making cognitive diversity work in the boardroom (1.50pm to 2.50pm)

Neil Tsappis, Demyst Board Sciences

Cognitive diversity is often defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles - and can have a major impact on the boardroom dynamic. This session is aimed at those on boards, or working with them, who wish to benefit through an understanding of cognitive diversity and how its practical application can improve boardroom performance. Neil Tsappis, of Demyst Board Sciences, will cover the key concepts of cognitive diversity - with a particular focus on its practical application through structured group work. This interactive session will allow participants to reflect more deeply on their own experiences and explore ways to make cognitive diversity work successfully within their boards. Participants are encouraged to read this article ahead of the session.

Financial Distress – role and responsibilities of the Board and Warning Signs and Options (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Lindsey Cooper, RSM UK Restructuring Advisory LLP

This session will cover the warning signs which may indicate financial distress within a Coop. It will discuss the options available to the board in times of financial distress as well as looking at the statutory responsibilities of board members.

The session will discuss the role of insolvency professionals across the spectrum from business rescue through to formal insolvency, and give an update on current topical insolvency matters.


Preventing and addressing sexual harassment at work (10.30am to 11.30am)

Emma Bagshaw, Seabury Legal

Government has announced its intention to create a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work. Seabury Legal's Emma Bagshaw will discuss what that duty may look like and how to develop a sexual harassment policy (including a complaints procedure). Emma will also explore the potential consequences if things don't go to plan. Learning outcomes will include an understanding of the new duty on employers and associated law changes to the law; an understanding of what employers can and should do to prevent sexual harassment and how to address complaints; and an understanding of the potential consequences for employers not working to prevent sexual harassment.

Covid case studies around discrimination of those shielding/pregnant (11.50am to 12.50pm)

Gary Morrison, Co-operatives UK

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, with a specific duty to protect pregnant employees. At the start of the pandemic pregnant women were advised that coronavirus may pose an increased risk. Many employers took the view that they were unable to protect the health and safety of pregnant women in the workplace and sent them home (often furloughed). Claims have subsequently been made that this was an act of pregnancy discrimination; that employees wanted to remain in work but were treated less favourably because they were pregnant. Some have complained to the Employment Tribunal (ET).. Co-operatives UK's Gary Morrison will take a look at recent cases coming from the ET. He will review judgements and explore what employers could/should have done differently. Delegates will gain an understanding of the duty to protect the health and safety of pregnant employees and how to balance this with the requirement not to treat them less favourably. Gary will also cover the risks of getting this wrong and how to use lessons learnt from the pandemic. in terms of health and safety and pregnancy.

Motherhood penalty (1.50pm to 2.50pm)

Joeli Brearley, Pregnant then Screwed

Data consistently shows that an alarming proportion of women experience barriers to their career and pay progression as soon as they announce they are pregnant. Joeli Brearley, of Pregnant then Screwed, will examine the barriers that women face and the associated consequences. Delegates will benefit through a greater appreciation of the (negative) impact pregnancy and motherhood can have on women in the workplace and leave with practical tips and ideas on reducing barriers to careers and pay progression in their own organisations.

Menopause at work (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Kate Fielding, Co-operatives UK

Government is developing a women's health strategy and the Women and Equalities Committee has recently closed a consultation on the extent of discrimination experienced by menopausal women in the workplace. While speculation continues that government may amend the Equality Act 2010 to make menopause a protected characteristic for discrimination purposes, what isn't specualtion is its impact. Menopause affects 51% of the population at some point in their lives and symptoms can be severe and debilitating (and potentially lasting for several years). Co-operatives UK's Kate Fielding will explore why it's important to talk about the menopause at work and why employers should consider giving additional support to employees. Kate will also examine what changes in the law might mean for employers and what employers can do now to prepare. Delegates will gain an appreciation of the business benefits of supporting women experiencing menopause; knowledge of potential future changes; and some practical steps to support employees.  

Building working relationships and culture in the 'new normal' of hybrid working (10.30am to 11.30am)

Chris Hood and Brad Taylor, Advanced Workplace Associates

Disruption can create opportunity - and the landscape has changed for many organisations with the widespread move to 'hybrid working' during the Covid pandemic. But how does hybrid working work (and can it work effectively for your co-operative). Chris Wood and Brad Taylor, of Advanced Workplace Associates, will  examine the challenges of hybrid working - and how to overcome them. Themes covered will include being prescriptive versus empowerment; policies or principles; team dynamics; culture building; and the impact on well-being, inclusion, engagement and creativity. If that's not enough Chris and Brad will also explore the tech solutions.

Co-operative approaches to product development (11.50am to 12.50pm)

Kayleigh Walsh, Outlandish

Co-operatives, like all other organisation in all sectors, deliver products and services. It's  often easy to lose sight of this as a core area to develop expertise - or we assume we know what our members want and need. This interactive workshop will guide you through tried and tested methods for designing new products and services focusing on agile and user-focused design principles so you can discovers, experiment and build or improve what your co-operative does in response to the needs of members and customers.

Writing a membership engagement strategy (1.50pm to 2.50pm)

John Atherton, Co-operatives UK

Meaningful engagement with your co-operative's membership is of critical importance. But who are the members? What are their wants and needs? And how can they help control and run the organisation? Focusing both on the commercial (design and use of products/services) as well as governance, this session is a step-by-step guide to creating a member engagement strategy. Delegates will gain an understanding of the preparatory work required - including research and collection of data and be led through the processes involved in designing and creating the strategy itself (including how to present the strategy to the board and members of the co-operative). 

Creating strategy in co-operative ways (without boring committee meetings) (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Adrian Ashton, freelance consultant

Creating strategy (long-term and short term decision-making) can be fraught with difficulty. Adran Ashton will explore why it’s important for all co-operatives to have a strategic plan and also introduce approaches and tools that can help create, use and update strategic plans. Adrian will  demonstrate how the creation of a strategy can be inclusive - and how consensus can be reached (and even how to involve other audiences in the process). The session will be participative and interactive, with delegates encouraged to starting using the tools introduced by Adrian.

Adapting to changing consumer trends and behaviour (11.50am to 12.50pm)

Chris Noice (Association of Convenience Stores (ACS))

In 2020 (and to some extent 2021) the rule book was thrown out as Covid took root. But it was an incredible year for the convenience sector, with significant growth and public recognition for the critical role played by retailers. Chris Noice, of ACS, will explore consumer trends and behaviour before and during Covid - and what it all means for the convenience sector both now and in the future. Chris will turn the spotlight on multiple areas including health, the environment, service provision and technology.

Combating the climate emergency (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Barry Clavin and Joe Hulme (The Co-op Group)

Co-operatives UK's recent co-ops and climate action report, released just ahead of the COP26 UN Climate summit in Glasgow, revealed that two thirds of co-ops are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but many do not have formal strategies or clear targets. The Co-op Group's Climate 10 Point Plan is a blueprint for achieving net zero by 2040 - 10 years ahead of international targets. From products and packaging to power and pension fund investments, they have a fully comprehensive climate action plan across all areas of their businesses. Learn how they approached this mammoth task, and hear tips on how to set a meaningful and measurable target for your own co-op's climate action, the process to follow to develop a plan and where to get support.

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