Every now and again a conference comes along that looks like it will be truly inspirational. ‘Spark the Change’ will be one of those gatherings. On Wednesday 1st July, Managing Director of Jenrick IT, Philip Fanthom will be speaking at 'Spark the Change 2015' conference on 'How do you stay one of the best places to Work in the UK?'. The aim of this conference is to enlighten, engage, inspire and to entertain people who are looking at how to build and maintain fantastic places to work. So, what’s it all about? Here is a Q&A with one of the organisers, Helen Walton (Founder of Gamevy), plus your chance to win a free 2-day pass to Spark the Change worth £800.

So what is this Spark thing?

Spark the Change is a global community of people who want to build better businesses and happier workplaces. We range from global giants to radical pioneers, from social enterprise to global banks, and from CEOs to academics and writers. What brings us together is a belief that we should free people to do their work, not block them; that we should attract and retain the best, not the fearful, and that we do better when we foster a culture of collaboration, leadership and innovation. On the 1st and 2nd July we get together in London for 2 days of talks, case studies and workshops – all dedicated to making change actually happen.

Who’s it for?

Traditionally, when people talk about  ‘change’, they tend to focus on a single area – turning the IT department Agile, introducing a new HR initiative etc. This is a mistake. Unless the organisation changes as a whole, internal resistance will block or erode meaningful cultural change. So Spark is about bringing together leaders from across the business and helping everyone, whatever their role or level, to implement meaningful changes. There are certainly a lot of tech and web companies attending - we have found that they are very alive to the importance of recruiting, retaining and ensuring their people are free to use their full potential. But there are also banks, charities, public sector, insurance companies and universities… anyone who wants the world of work to be more productive, innovative and happier. Because Spark brings together different communities, this is one conference where few people will know each other at the start – making it a really interesting way to expand your network.

Why is it needed?

The best companies don’t react to change. They lead it. Most of us know the theory. We want our organisations to be more responsive and that often means cutting down on bureaucracy and ‘command and control’ style hierarchies. We want to free up our people to use their talent and initiative and we want them to be happy in order to recruit and retain the best. Actually, we’d also just like to be happy ourselves – to feel connected to a meaningful purpose in our work, to feel we’re really contributing something, that we have freedom and autonomy and that we’re working with others we respect. Yet in spite of that, the reality for many of us is very different. Never mind the Gallup figures that suggest 87% of people are either actively disengaged or not engaged at work, we hear all the time from those who are engaged – but frustrated. In spite of knowing what outcomes they want, we constantly hear from people who struggle to get changes accepted or embedded in the wider organisation. The reason most commonly given for Agile adoption stalling is ‘culture’. Spark the Change helps people identify what change you most want and need in your own teams and organisations and then work out a practical plan for how to go about making it happen.

What’s different about Spark?

Many conferences can leave you ‘inspired’, but the energy drains away when you return to your desk on Monday morning and realise that nothing is really going to happen. That’s anathema to us! That’s why Spark has less of a focus on big keynote talks (although there are a few that you really shouldn’t miss!) and instead looks at practicalities: Case studies. We invite certain interesting companies to speak honestly about their experiences – the changes they’ve made, what went wrong, and actual business results. From Gore (making employee ownership and minimal bureaucracy work at scale) to Monmouthshire Children’s Services engaging social workers, this is a chance to recognise ‘if they can do it, then so can we’. Workshops. We have selected the very best agencies and consultants in Europe to run 17 workshops. Each one is focused on a practical skill or tool which will help you deliver change. Need to persuade and influence others? Then join top agency The Writer on how to use words to change your world, or The So Team for their renowned workshop on presenting.  Improve collaboration with Nigel Linacre, focus on faster decision-making with Dawna Jones or explore what policies and procedures a freedom-centred company has with WorldBlu. You can even try out holacracy in a simulation and see what all the fuss is about! It has to be said that this offers exceptional value. Spark allows you to try sessions from world-renowned experts that would normally cost thousands per seat as part of the overall ticket price. Feedback last year overwhelmingly commented not only on how stimulating the debates were, but how many concrete, practical plans each participant left with.

Anything extra?

Of course there is! We have copies of some really useful books to give away to participants. Written by speakers who are also holding workshops, we found these inspirational but also filled with practical tips to put into execution. We will also hold the Spark Award – a chance for the most innovative organisation to win fame and fortune! Spark is held at The Brewery, a place renowned for its food – executive chef Tom Gore is the darling of food bloggers! There will be sumptuous breakfasts and lunches and although the London pub where the Social evening will be held doesn’t pretend to heights of culinary glory, it certainly takes its beer seriously…

Should you go?

  • Do you wish your organisation was more responsive?
  • Do you value innovation, collaboration and diversity?
  • Do you recognise the importance of culture in attracting and retaining people?
  • Does your organisation take too long to make decisions or do local optimisations block overall progress?
  • Are you frustrated by the pace of change or by resistance from small groups of ‘blockers’?
  • Do you need to develop unique plans for your particular needs rather than adopting a methodology?
  • Would you like to meet the leading thinkers and writers?
  • Would you like to improve your skills and explore the latest tools?

If you answered yes, then come! And just to make things even better here’s a code for Jenrick readers! HOW TO BOOK TICKETS To book tickets for this event, please click here.

COMPETITION: What change will you Spark?

WIN A FREE 2-DAY PASS TO SPARK THE CHANGE, TICKET WORTH £800.

What change do you want to make to your organisation?

HOW TO ENTER: Email events@jenrick.co.uk with a change you want to make to your organisation and a winner will be drawn at random from those who respond.