A few years later, in 2021, Jo and Simon decided to try the merger again, with a goal of creating an organisation that would be able to provide a range of social care services and support for vulnerable people including individuals with mental health conditions, older people and those with learning disabilities and complex needs, but this time bringing in consultants to support the process. They decided that Eastside People, with the team’s deep experience of merger implementation, was a perfect fit.
Different organisational cultures, personality clashes and legal hurdles are challenges that beset many mergers, and this merger was no different, compounded by the complexity of several organisations being involved with different legal forms. The independent role that Eastside People’s consultant, Deborah Jenkins, played was vital to the merger’s success.
While Simon and Jo remained resolute that the merger was going to be a triumph, other staff and board members were doubtful, worrying about losing their own organisations’ identities and fearing the legal and regulatory implications of merging a charity with private companies.
“They needed someone to stand back and navigate the process,” says Deborah.
Jo agrees, pointing out that Deborah’s expertise won over those who were less confident. “Deborah very quickly gained the respect of everyone because she very clearly has a wealth of knowledge and experience,” says Jo.
Deborah was able to make use of her independent role to act as a facilitator to diffuse tensions and move everyone towards an agreement. “Someone independent can be the bridge between key senior level stakeholders, build consensus and navigate through,” she explains.
Deborah acted as an adviser to the shadow board – the trustees and board members overseeing the merger – through the governance of the merger. She also offered invaluable support to Jo and Simon (who by this time had been promoted to CEO of NAViGO) during the ups and downs of the process. “It gave them confidence having someone who had already led and been involved in mergers themselves to say, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster, but it’s normal for it to feel like this and we can find a way through,” says Deborah.
Despite the complexity of the merger, Eastside People kept their input lean by ensuring that Deborah’s role was very tightly defined as Merger Project Director. A member of staff from one of the merging organisations took on the day-to-day project management, working closely alongside Deborah, who was able to focus on the tasks that only an outside consultant could do.
After just over a year of work, the merger was finalised on 1 April 2022. Jo became CEO of the new organisation, Nurtrio, under the parent company of NAViGO CIC. Today, some of the new organisation’s services are consolidating, while others are growing. The ambition is to build a solid organisation that grows organically.
The point of the whole project, says Jo, was being able to better serve the people who require Nurtrio’s support and care services. “For me, it was about being able to deliver the best possible services as well as offering more choice,” she says. “Our focus is on the people who we support and those who choose to work with us.”
Jo is convinced that working with Eastside People was a good decision. “From the very beginning, Eastside People have shown themselves to be hugely knowledgeable and supportive,” says Jo. “Without Deborah’s input, I am 100 per cent confident that we would not have achieved the merger.”