I am lucky enough to be the chair of the Collaborative Professionals Network, which is an umbrella organisation comprising ICAEW, Leeds Law Society, IoD, CIOT, ATT, STEP, West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, ACCA, the Insurance Institute of Leeds, Leeds Law School, Ascension, YABA, and Leeds Community Foundation.

The CPN was created to encourage collaboration and communication between professionals and businesses working in Yorkshire, and aims to provide training and education to its members and to work together for the mutual benefit of professionals and businesses throughout Yorkshire.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, we arranged 4 events each year for members, our aim was to provide events which were informative , encouraged debate and benefited businesses and professionals in Yorkshire, and enabled networks to be formed organically.

The theme for 2020 was “build for the future” and the first event was held in March at the offices of Womble Bond Dickinson, where a panel of city leaders spoke about their plans for the development of Leeds in the future.

Unfortunately, before the next event could take place, COVID-19 hit… And the world turned on its axis.

Whilst we all needed to consider the impact this had on ourselves personally, professionally and in our own businesses -for example , I was setting up my own business at that time, to start on the 1st of May (timing is everything! ), we as a committee wanted to do all that we could to support our membership during what was, of course, an extremely fraught and difficult time.

The committee regrouped and arrange to put on a number of online events to support its members. Initially we focused on events surrounding the immediate impact of COVID-19 -issues such as the effects of furlough and mental health issues being the main focus (Jodie Hill with Insurance Institute and Leeds Law School).

We then looked at building soft skills and put on events on building your confidence (Lyn Scott with Insurance Institute) and using LinkedIn for marketing (Meg Burton with ICAEW)  followed by a webinar on confident speaking in the virtual world (Minoti Pankh with the Insurance Institute ).

In the autumn we focussed on business issues with an event on business resilience (Tony Webster with the IoD) and an event on recruiting virtually (Suzanne Courtney with ICAEW).  

 We ended the year with an event on redundancy, stress and mental health (Jodie Hill with Leeds Law School) and  , this webinar was supported by Leeds law school and our final event of the year was a virtual inclusion escape room run jointly with the insurance Institute.

I am hugely proud of the range of events that we managed to put on as a committee for our membership and hope that it has been supportive to the members during a very difficult year and I am very grateful to my committee and the speakers and supporting bodies who have given their time and facilities for free to support and assist.

We haven’t sat on our laurels and we have  already put in place a programme of events looking towards the spring. Whilst we hope to revert to “in person” events in the in due course , we are realistic and expect that online events will have to continue at least through to Easter . It might be that, given the success of the online events, we run online events in addition to in person events . I would be grateful to hear what people think, so if you have any comments please do get in touch. Events that we have lined up already for early 2021 are: –

1 6 steps to build your Business- Ron Maycock (with IoD) on 20.1.2021.

2 Managing your mind for success. Allison Reed on 3.2.2021

3 Enabling Neurodiversity in the workplace- Kate Dean (with IoD) on 4.2.2021.

4 Inside the mind of a tax inspector- Richard Alderson (with Insurance Institute) on  25.3.2021

5 The Truth about Stress – Clare Downham (with Insurance Institute) on 12.1.2021

6 Investing Ethically- Adam Martell (with Charles Stanley) on 23.2.2021

Whilst no one would wish the COVID-19 crisis on anyone, I have been overwhelmed by the support and willingness of the committee, speakers and organisations to support and assist in developing and  delivering such a wide ranging and informative set of webinars at short notice.

This embodies the spirit and ethos of the CPN, which is to collaborate, to work together, for the greater good.

I am conscious that the online events have prevented, to a large extent, the networking element which was so beneficial in our “in person” events and we hope to develop our online events to include more networking elements. However I proud of what we have managed to achieve on a non existent budget at short notice in a crisis and I hope that it has been of benefit to the wide range of members within Yorkshire who are able to attend our events.

If anybody would like to know more about CPN, either as an individual who would like to speak or get involved,  or as an organisation who would like to join us, I would be very happy to speak to them. My contact details are Karen@kareneckstein.co.uk. Details of the events can be seen at our website https://collaborativeprofessionalsnetwork.co.uk/