The challenge

We worked closely with two Bristol-based housing associations to support their ambition to form a new organisation and deliver better services and new homes across the city.

United Communities and Solon South West’s boards appointed us to support communications around their merger plans during 2020. We provided wide-ranging strategic support which helped engage all members of staff and every one of their 2,800 households. Stakeholders and city leaders were also engaged as part of a targeted outreach programme.

The coronavirus outbreak disrupted the engagement, causing much of the planned activity to take place online. Despite this, we secured an excellent response rate from residents which helped the proposals gain the regulatory and board approvals to proceed.

What we did

Our support focused on putting people at the heart of the merger plans. It included:

  • Workshops with staff in their offices and online, to shape the new organisation’s culture, values and offer to colleagues.
  • Engagement with residents that saw every household sent a consultation pack and offer. This was supported with follow up emails and a personal letter and leaflet sent to every home.
  • Updates to both organisations’ websites and a social media campaigns using the hashtag #OurResidentOffer on both organisations’ Facebook and Twitter feeds.
  • Detailed, timely briefings to city leaders and stakeholders, including cabinet member for housing Paul Smith and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees.
  • Related to the merger, we promoted the organisations’ newly established Coronavirus Community Fund, which was set up to help local groups impacted by COVID-19. From a standing start, the fund was promoted and helped to issue grants totaling almost £100,000 to 27 Bristol groups. These stories demonstrated collaboration between United Communities and Solon and helped to build goodwill amongst stakeholders.
  • Extensive media coverage of the fund and the merger proposals was generated across broadcast, regional and online media. You can see details of the coverage generated here


Response to the consultation was excellent when compared with other similar exercises, with more than 5% of all residents providing feedback on the proposals. The vast majority of those who responded supported the proposals.

Following a successful resident consultation, both boards agreed to proceed towards a merger on 24 September.  Brighter Places was established in April 2021, unlocking millions of pounds in additional investment in improvements and hundreds of new affordable homes across the city.