As first experiences go when you start a new job it can be a pretty daunting task being part of a small team that has to deliver a huge conference that includes almost 600 delegates at different events and venues over a week.
The MSDUK 2014 conference was my first experience at what I call a herculean task in terms of logistics and delivery but I won’t go on about the enormous task of organising the events and venues instead this blog will focus on some of the highlights of the conference.
Our conference week started on Monday 13th October with the International Day. This event provided our international delegates from the US, Canada and South Africa with an overview of the UK economy and its increasing multicultural society, followed by the Global Knowledge Exchange on Supplier Diversity. I was very impressed with the quality of the presentations and the speakers and the really surprising thing was the speakers kept to their allocated time limit which was very important for me because we had our next event looming on the horizon, the ‘Policy Summit’
The Policy Summit at the House of Lords was marathon event that lasted for three hours but time goes quickly when involved in a good cause. The Policy Summit saw the launch of The Road to Inclusive Procurement report and Balfour Beatty’s ‘SME Procurement and Inclusion’ presentation. This was followed by a panel discussion on how to make public sector procurement inclusive in order to achieve socio-economic equality. On the panel we had a number of esteemed panellist’s, a Member of Parliament, a Civil Servant, the Managing Director of a successful ethnic minority business and among them a dragon, not a real one but one out of ‘Dragons’ Den’ the BBC series. The report and the panel discussion raised a number of important points:
- Government currently does not break down it’s spend with small and medium enterprises beyond total direct and indirect spend by each department.
- The three pieces of legislation designed to support the inclusion of SMEs, minorities and high social value enterprises in public supply chains currently work in isolation from each other.
- Ethnic minority-owned small and medium enterprises still face numerous challenges in accessing government supply chains that support programmes are failing to solve.
- Ethnic minority-owned SMEs represent between 6-9% of the SME marketplace and generate £25-32 billion a year in revenue.
- Changing the way Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMB’s) are perceived.
- Addressing the issues with ethnic minorities businesses acquiring capital to scale up.
- More flexible Support for SME’s, no more large government contracts.
- Code of conduct to encourage large government contractors to work with SME’s
On Tuesday we ran a Midlands Visit for the International Delegation. I have to say was not involved in showing our international guests some of the outstanding EMB’s in the region but was involved in the most important part of the day dinner at ‘Feast India’ a local Leicester restaurant.
On Wednesday we headed back to London for our pre-conference reception and getting ready for our big day on Thursday the Conference and Awards Dinner.
Thursday started with the Business Opportunity Fair where we had over 40 exhibitors from our EMB network and an Exclusive Buyers meeting Hub. The event was very successful, we had over 300 delegates attending with the Exclusive Buyers meeting Hub being very popular judging by the length of the queue. No time to waste and off to the next event the Knowledge Forum.
The Knowledge Forum started with the CPO panel discussion composed of EMB’s and Corporate members and was facilitated by BBC’s Kamal Ahmed. There was a lively discussion on how to implement a Just Procurement Practice with panellist highlighting the following;
- the economic benefits that come from having a diverse supply chain
- breaking down barriers that impede small business access to supply chains, public and private by simplifying processes
- The importance of engagement reciprocity for both supplier and corporate, a more meaningful engagement
- Providing more opportunity for entrepreneurship and innovation
At the end the discussion was followed by the different workshops but what stood in my mind was the excitement of our delegates preparing for the Piece de resistance the MSDUK Awards Dinner presented by Colin Jackson. I could go on about the Awards Dinner but I think the event is best described by the photos, passionate speeches’ and videos of our presenters and award winners.