A reflection – one year on from the Ownership Dividend our partnerships are crucial to growing EO

Just over one year ago we concluded the Ownership Effect Inquiry with the launch of the report The Ownership Dividend – the Economic Case for Employee Ownership.

With financial support of John Lewis Partnership and the eaga Trust, leadership of Baroness Sharon Bowles and the academic rigour of Cass and Alliance Manchester Business Schools, the Ownership Dividend was launched to great acclaim.

The launch and the aftermath of media coverage confirmed that the Ownership Dividend tapped into a very current and relevant set of issues facing the UK:

  • business survival and succession
  •  improving productivity levels in SMEs
  •  supporting more diverse and resilient regional economies

We’ve had many invitations to meet with and speak to interested organisations across business, finance, academia, as well as political and key influencers such as FSB, ICAEW, IFB, ICSA, CMI, CIPD, British Chambers of Commerce, ScaleUp Institute, Investment Association, and in Scotland – Law Society and ICAS.

And as a result of those conversations, other new relationships have started to form with organisations such as UK Finance, FCA, FRC, Chartered Banker Institute, British Business Bank, CBI, and IFOW (Institute for the Future of Work).

If I was to summarise the impact created during the past year, I would say it has been in three key areas:

  • Increasing the influence of the EOA – especially with political audiences and stakeholders
  •  Extending the reach of EO – into and through UK business organisations as a means of multiplying our efforts regarding awareness raising and capacity building
  • Developing the credibility of EO – using the data and case studies from the Ownership Dividend to demonstrate the remarkable impact of EO on business performance and sustainability.


Working with business organisations

It’s fair to say that the partners who supported the Inquiry were critical to its success adding weight to its credibility.

I am delighted that many of the organisations and individuals that were panellists in the inquiry and helped us to launch The Ownership Dividend have now moved to become active champions of EO.

We have seen many of you support extending the reach of EO through either awareness raising, capacity building and education – all in line with the Action Plan we published in the Ownership Dividend: For example, organisations such as the FSB, Chartered Bankers Institute, ICAEW have each published articles in their membership publications to highlight EO – using case studies and expert commentary to bring EO to life for their specific readers. And we continue to work closely with those organisations to deliver more awareness and knowledge. Mainstream business publications such as Business Insider and Management Today have used their own platforms to share data from the OD which has helped to raise awareness.

In terms of capacity building, our work in Scotland has included support for Co-operative Development Scotland to enable them to run a programme of learning for advisors, supported by the Law Society and ICAS.

And our activity to broaden education about how employee ownership works, and its benefits have seen us widen our speaking engagements – including invitations from Goldsmiths University, Engage Customer Summit, Next Generation Planners Conference – all new audiences interested in discovering more about employee ownership.

And I am really pleased that in one really important area, that of access to finance for the EO sector, we have now established some useful links that were expressed in the Ownership Dividend Action Plan. These include the British Business Bank, the Bank of England and the Investment Association.

Working on influencing and policy

EO is non-partisan and apolitical and therefore it’s important that the EOA on behalf of the sector is engaging with all political views.

Since the launch of the Ownership Dividend, we have engaged directly with both main parties at a senior level with Ministerial advisors, and we have also supporting the CBI’s thinking as it prepares to offer the Government its advice about how to maximise the opportunity presented by greater employee stake and voice in business.

Going through the Inquiry and publishing the Ownership Dividend also helped us to achieve greater clarity on where there are obvious political synergies with other parts of the economy.

For example, with worker cooperatives. Whilst the democratic model of a worker coop may be different to that of an EOB, there are many shared values – not least giving all employees the opportunity of a stake and a say. However, possibly more importantly, these two areas of the economy also share some of the same challenges; including a lack of awareness, a lack of professional advisory capacity and challenges around access to finance.

On that basis, since the launch of the Ownership Dividend we are now working more closely with our colleagues at Coops UK – and indeed are campaigning together to lobby Government for more attention and support.

It’s important that EO continues to be politically independent – as we have seen it so successfully done in the US with the resulting bi-partisan support for federal laws to support the growth of EO – something that the EOA would like to see in the UK.

Our membership

EOA members are present in every part of the economy and in every region – so their awareness of the Ownership Dividend and their ability to speak confidently about it when the opportunity arises has been important.

Whilst we have key advocates in the EO Sector Group, having more than 380 businesses ready to champion and advocate for EO is a huge asset.

Our members have been brilliant – they have really rallied behind the EOA and the Ownership Dividend – on social media, through their own communications and marketing and in providing brilliant case studies that bring EO to life.

In the EOA’s 40th year most of them were also actively involved in celebrating EO in our annual campaign of EO Day – this year focused on how EO delivers happier workplaces.

The next 12 months

Our focus must be to ensure that the results of the Ownership Dividend become known better by all relevant influencers – across the political spectrum and in business.

Therefore, it’s more of the same for all of us interested in moving EO into the mainstream:

  • working to grow the impact of our partnerships
  • collaborating with our brilliant members
  • seeking audiences with politicians where we can link EO to the key challenges being experienced by society and the economy

We start our next decade at the EOA in the best possible position – with evidence, advocates and ambition.