Practitioners Forum: Vital lessons for key co-operators

Delegates can pick and mix from strands on communications; finance; governance; HR; and membership

The Practitioners Forum, organised by Co-operatives UK, is a day of learning sessions for people operating in key roles in co-operative businesses large and small.

Held on Thursday, 7 November at the Studio, Manchester, if offers five strands (communications; finance; governance; HR; and membership), with four sessions in each. Delegates can pick and mix sessions across the strands, which are led by experts from co-operatives and companies who have experience and insight to share. 

One such expert is Maria Borstnar, a behavioural insight trainer and consultant who helps businesses develop “behaviourally informed campaigns and propositions that are user-friendly and easy to engage with”. She is the founder of Nudge2Engage, which aims to help organisations benefit from behavioural insight, and will be leading a session in the Membership strand.

“The ‘Nudge’ approach is based on Nobel prize-winning research,” she says. “Rather than just focusing on rationality, it takes into account our emotions, cognitive biases, mental shortcuts and environmental factors that impact on how we realistically make decisions – in our own lives and at work. 

“If you are unaware of factors influencing your customers’ decision-making, you may be (unknowingly) investing in inefficient marketing strategies, and developing services that are not user-friendly.”

Also presenting is Chris Sands, founder of Totally Locally – a grassroots campaign to bring struggling high streets back to life. Totally Locally is built around a message that £5 can make a difference.

“It started with the idea that if every adult in Calderdale spent £5 per week in their local shops and businesses instead of online, at the supermarket or with huge multinationals, it would be worth £20m going directly back into the local economy,” says Chris. “That’s a huge amount of money with massive benefits to the area, for just a tiny bit of effort from each person who lives there.” 

The campaign focuses on collaboration, encouraging business owners, traders and producers to work together to create vibrant and sustainable high streets. A free toolkit means there are now Totally Locally campaigns taking place in towns across the world – and a big part of this is #FiverFest, where towns and high streets taking part put on special £5 offers over one week, to show the diversity and value of what they sell. The next is 5-12 October 2019.

Other speakers include James Roberts from the MemberWise Network, who will look at the importance of understanding member value; Josh Wheeler from Good Broadcast UK, who will offer advice on how to generate broadcast media coverage; and Mel Harris from Sparklab Productions, a podcast production company.

Colleague wellbeing is a theme for the HR strand, with Sharon Pegg giving an introduction to employee wellbeing, Lincolnshire Co-op leading a session on promoting colleague wellbeing and the Co-op Group following with  a look at how to use what you already know to shape a wellbeing programme.

The Finance strand will hear about tax updates from KPMG, which is also presenting a view on the UK’s economic outlook. And Diana Finch will share her experience of the Bristol Pound CIC.

Co-operatives UK’s Linda Barlow and Co-op Culture’s Dr Mark Simmonds will talk delegates through the nuts and bolts of sociocracy in the Governance strand, exploring how co-ops are using this set of tools and principles that ensure shared power. Participants can also choose sessions on the importance of member inductions, engaging employees and involving member bodies and co-operative governance.

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