New CEO uses first formal speech in role to announce two major programmes and a return to face-to-face events

New Chief Executive James de le Vingne has given his first formal speech as CEO since joining the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) in February. In his keynote speech at our Better Business Together event, which incorporated the EOA AGM, James spoke about his vision for the organisation’s digital transformation, the most ambitious research programme to date called the Knowledge Programme, and also made an announcement about our 2022 events. Here is what he had to say:

I have spent the past few weeks on tour meeting many employee-owned businesses, supporter members, as well as some of our partners such as Ownership at Work. I have been inspired by the passion and commitment in these businesses joined by a common purpose, that business and society are better when people have a meaningful stake and say in their work.

Joining the EOA as its new Chief Executive at a time where the business is in extremely good shape, as illustrated by our Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee Jo Ritzema, we can build for the future and help unlock the potential of people, business and the economy through employee ownership.

James de le Vingne giving his speech at the AGM event

Together with our members, the EOA is embarking on an ambitious new strategy that looks to seize the political, cultural, and digital opportunities in front of us to sustain the continued growth of the EO community. This growth will deliver greater corporate diversity and economic resilience across the UK, positioning EO businesses as a mainstream solution to our economic recovery and long-term future.

In planning for this future and to make the most of this once in a generation opportunity we must first observe the past.

If we cast our minds back 15 years ago, it was MySpace that was popular, social media was unknown, Blackberry phones dominated, and for the EOA it was early in our journey as a membership organisation.

It was only 10 years ago that the iPhone started to change the way we interact with the world, Twitter rose to popularity, and our daily lives started to become reliant on the internet.

The change since then has been phenomenal, with the last five years seeing the rapid rise in the ‘on demand’ sharing economy with platforms such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb becoming ubiquitous and making it easier than ever to outsource tasks in our personal and working lives.

Digital transformation

Customer and member expectations are shifting as a result. I think it’s fair to say these have changed dramatically, and that we are likely to see exponentially more change moving forward. For the EOA, this means grasping new technologies and approaches to delivering member value.

I am starting a process of reviewing our digital infrastructure, skills, and resources so that we can pivot to a digital-first strategy that enables us to expand and deepen our member engagement and scope of influence through improved collection and use of data.

Our digital transformation will enable us to gather new insights and offer highly personalised offers and content through improved segmentation that targets a wide range of audiences within our growing community. In doing so, the EOA will maintain its market position as the ‘go-to’ place for good employee ownership.


I’m sure you will be pleased to hear that our digital channels will continue to work alongside our unrivalled account management and in-person experiences, making the EOA more connected with its members than ever before.

We know that people are driven by the need to belong and connect and I’m delighted to share that our in-person events programme will return later this year, including three summer regional networking events in June and our annual conference, which will take place over the 3rd and 4th of October in Liverpool.

A substantially larger EO business community also creates new opportunities to broker and facilitate connections at scale. This core strength of the EOA team will continue as we look for new spaces to act as facilitators of positive connections amongst the EO community to create powerful and compelling networks across a range of sectors, topics and geographies.

James de le Vingne talking with EOA Chair Chris McDermott at the AGM event


And as we grow, we commit to ensuring our members and prospective members engage with an EOA that remains focussed on delivering results that extend well beyond our membership numbers, and to demonstrate the positive impact your businesses are having on society.

Our plan to better measure these impacts of the sector begin with a new project with Ownership at Work, ‘The Knowledge Programme’, through which we aim to transform the UK’s understanding of employee ownership and the sector’s knowledge about itself. This ambitious research programme will consider three core areas:

  • EO Performance: To evidence the economic, social, and environmental benefits of EO and how these compare with other business models.
  • Good EO: To create benchmarks that enable businesses to routinely access EO-specific good practice from their high-performing peers.
  • An Integrated Impact Project: This will develop a free-to-use model that enables EO businesses to measure and manage social and environmental impact and help shape the future of EO in the UK.

We will need the support of EOA members to gather this data and will be asking businesses to contribute the equivalent of one day of its time as Knowledge Partners over the next year for this ground-breaking and important work.

This data and insight will allow us to tell the story of EO to those we seek to influence as well as better map the learning needs of our members and the EO community to make sure that EO is not just measured in terms of the impact of individual businesses, but also regularly demonstrates its impact on individuals and the UK economy.

I couldn’t be more excited about joining the network and leading the team through the opportunities ahead and look forward to collaborating with you all to bring this to fruition.

James de le Vingne was speaking at our Better Business Together event, which incorporated the EOA AGM, and you can watch the full event on-demand on the EOA’s YouTube channel. Click here to watch >>

The EOA AGM included a review of 2021 – you can see a slideshow review of the EOA in 2021, by clicking here >> 

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