Jane Ashworth, Exec Events Manager

Collaboration and cutting costs

When I heard recently that the latest Talkback Pulse results showed a drop in the question around teams collaborating across Co-op I was quite surprised.

Collaboration is the name of the game in my world – events. I’ve worked in Events for a decade, and 21 years for Co-op altogether.

In all of those ten years, collaboration and co-operation with all sorts of teams across every business in Co-op has been the reason we’ve succeeded.

With only two of us (Zoe Carter is my partner in collaboration) and 200 corporate events a year to organise, it’s essential we work with others to make things happen. We join up departments and businesses, we connect stakeholders, we share solutions, we help get the Co-op brand out there.

So what do I mean by that?

  • We showcase Food products at every event – be it a Council meeting or an HR conference
  • Last year Food wanted to use the Tuk tuk at our Pride events but it cost too much so we suggested they borrow Elvis – our Insurance recovery vehicle
  • We made sure the Taste and Tell boxes received by depots are also sent to our Insurance colleagues in Bury St Edmunds and Nottingham – so that all colleagues are treated the same
  • Our Member events in the autumn will showcase all our businesses
  • The AGM is a classic example of us coming together as one Co-op

We don’t find it difficult to join the dots. It should come easy in an organisation like ours.

And with the advent of digital collaboration tools like Slack, Skype, Google hangouts, Trello there isn’t really an excuse why we can’t work across departments and businesses.

My advice on collaboration

  • Take advantage of different communication channels (including social media)
  • Use tools like Skype and Google hangouts to keep in touch with teams
  • Make meetings count (unnecessary meetings cost UK businesses £191 billion a year)
  • Define and discuss goals
  • Encourage a creative environment (lots of people coming together with ideas)
  • Identify strengths in other teams


Fuel for Growth – saving money to invest

The kind of events we’re doing now are dramatically different from those I was working on ten years ago. We’ve gone from extravagant gala dinners to events that are stripped right back.

I think it’s a positive thing. It’s stuff I’ve wanted to do for the last five or six years to make events much more slick and process driven.

Years ago we might have stopped doing events altogether but that’s why Fuel for Growth is different. Now we’re being asked to think differently and creatively about how we do them.

Making them more informal, more engaging – less reliant on props and stages. Just simple but effective cost-savings.

In 2017 we spent £3.3m on external events. So how are we saving money?

  • Cutting AV (audio/video/set up support) spend by £500k
  • Fixing the meeting rooms in the Support Centre so colleagues don’t have to go off-site and spend money
  • Using community venues owned by our local causes – that way we’re putting even more money back into our communities
  • Using Co-op premises across the country – depots, community rooms in Food stores and funeral homes

What we’re doing is a cultural change for colleagues. We’ve done events a certain way for a number of years so it’ll be hard to change.

But if we think about any money we spend as members’ money – then we should always question our reasons for spending it.

Jane Ashworth
Exec Events Manager

Have you got a meeting room in a Food store or funeral home we could use? Please let us know by emailing events@coop.co.uk