MSDUK – Knowledge Forum Day, Overview

It was quite a week for celebrations last week for the MSDUK. Not only did the UK membership organisation that drives inclusive procurement hold its annual 3-day conference, promoting supplier diversity, it held a glittering awards ceremony for the best ethnic minority entrepreneurs and corporations. On top of that, it is celebrating a 10-year anniversary of supporting diversity and inclusion in public and private sector supply chains by identifying and introducing innovative and entrepreneurial ethnic-minority-owned businesses.

Day 2 of the conference was Knowledge Forum day, and we were at The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London’s Tower Bridge district.  Day 2 was devoted to "giving attendees the opportunity to learn, network, share knowledge and experience ... listen to entrepreneurs’ stories, and engage in workshops to share and exchange experiences and challenges," followed by the 10-year anniversary celebration. Day 3 had a different angle -- an exhibition to identify new business opportunities through networking, talks, business exchange roundtables and less formal lounges. The Awards followed in the evening. But we were just there for the day. For those of you who couldn't attend - here is an overview and some highlights. In the coming days we'll feature some sessions in more depth.

Dr Michelle Palmer, MD Canary Wharf & City Recruitment, did a very good job of hosting the event. Tim Millwood, VP Purchasing, Cummins, which has been championing supplier diversity for many years, gave an introduction to challenging the status quo. This was followed by MSDUK CEO Mayank Shah giving an outline of the organisation's 10-year history. If you'd like to know more about Mayank and his drive behind MSDUK, you can read an interview we carried out with him here.

Mayank talked about what is behind the organisation: the 'campaign for a fairer society,' and a more accessible business landscape for the 'under represented.' He emphasised that this is so much more than just a social campaign, it is about economic empowerment in those communities around the world, and in terms of procurement, making processes more competitive and open, driving innovation and reducing inequalities.

He talked about growth, and shared his 2020 vision to expand more across Europe and rollout more services. They have just launched the GSDA or global supplier diversity alliance, a common platform and the place to go for anything you want to know about supplier diversity/inclusive procurement, and to get connected. In 2017 they plan to fill what they believe to be a gap at present - skillset training for those starting their own businesses. We will bring you much more on those two initiatives in the coming weeks.

An initiative well worth our attention is something MSDUK is very excited about. The organisation has experienced 10 years of achievements (and there's a great infographic here that outlines them) but has not had a mechanism in place with which to gauge or measure them. This has been made harder by the differing approaches and processes of procurement teams across its member base. So MSDUK is developing a benchmarking tool initially to be used by members, but one which, once there is sufficient data collected, can be useful to all organisations, all over the world, ethnic-minority-owned or not.

It will gather data confidentially, and organisations will be able to measure performance in terms of supplier diversity, across areas such as policy, leadership commitment, advocacy and engagement, to name a few, and run reports. What the MSDUK is looking forward to is being able to understand better how it can help organisations to be more productive in those areas. It's a product that could prove very useful for organisations  in terms of identifying where they can improve, and we will come back to it in greater detail once launched.

Other highlights of the day include an excellent and informative CPO panel session - we will report on that in full in our next post. We heard from Skanska, and it was interesting to see an embedded inclusive procurement programme in construction. Obviously in construction the supply chain goes deep, and it's not always easy to reach the furthest echelons. But in Skanska supplier diversity is aligned to the organisation's business goals and culture. It spends 80% of its revenue with the supply chain, believes in putting something back, and has adopted  a UK procurement policy and code of conduct on how they expect their supply chain to behave, treating everyone fairly and making it as uncomplicated as possible to get smaller supplies through the process as easily as the big ones. We are told by Skanska that in may cases, supplier diversity is requested by clients and other stakeholders, which is encouraging to hear.

Another highlight (and we couldn't attend all sessions of course) was the discussion on the Value of Cultural Intelligence, which revealed some interesting and quite surprising data -- we'll be reporting in full on that soon.

All in all a good and useful event, with a good turnout, about 160 in my reckoning. Especially worth a mention is how receptive everyone was in terms of networking - there was a genuine spirit of good-nature and a willingness to walk up to people and introduce themselves. I guess everyone felt they were part of a very worthwhile cause.

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