Practitioners Forum 2023

Last week we attended the Practitioners Forum held at The Studio in the centre of Manchester (a great space in itself if you have never visited). The forum is Co-operatives UK‘s flagship training and development event designed specifically for people working in co-operative businesses of all sizes. It’s renowned for its specialist forums covering Governance, Membership, Finance, HR and Communication with plenty of opportunities for networking in between.

As a workers co-op whose intention is to expand our offer, we were interested in sessions surrounding employee safety and wellbeing, employment law updates and maximising the value of data, amongst others. The forums we attended were a mix of presentations, discussion and interaction – which is always a great opportunity to get to know others and find out what they do and how they function. 

In the first session Ross Henderson, Regional H&S Manager at WorkNest, opened up discussion around empowering businesses to manage wellbeing and H&S within the workplace. A quick recap of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and conversations around the challenges of ensuring wellbeing in relation to remote working, this session offered plenty of opportunities to share good practices and talk through concerns and challenges. We reviewed staggering statistics around absenteeism linked to stress, anxiety and depression encouraging us to consider the effectiveness of the systems we have in place to ensure work/life balance and social interaction within our organisation.

The Diversity and Inclusion forum, led by Dr Leanne Dawson, posed questions about how we communicate inclusivity within our current roles and how we build psychological safety within our working environment. We had some great discussions around strategies linking to confidence building and how we can ensure open communication within the workplace to ensure people feel heard and to avoid ‘GroupThink’. This discussion also extended to comms and marketing reaffirming knowledge with regard to accessibility and challenging assumptions. 

Data isn’t always the most exciting topic so we challenged ourselves to attend this session and were not disappointed! Sian Basker made what could have been a potentially ‘dry’ subject (she led with this statement!) really engaging and enjoyable. Sian led open discussions about how to use data, how to record it and how to maximise the value of it. One of our challenges was to extract data from each other about our organisations and then present this in three alternative ways using a box of craft materials – for all the visual thinkers out there, this was a game changer! 

In addition to the above, another fundamental key takeaway from the Practitioners Forum is that the world of cooperatives is vast and varied with lots of exciting and purposeful things going on. The day offered many opportunities to form working relationships and extend networks along with sharing stories, thoughts and ideas and a good lunch!