Whole System Integration

Culture and System Change


Our aim

To create the conditions for a cultural shift to make moving a normal part of every day for all. Our mantra is to get everyone moving, every day – ‘whoever, wherever and whatever, your way, whatever the weather!’.


Changing mindsets, language, imagery and beliefs is fundamental to system change and behaviour change. At times, it can be easily achieved, and often with little financial investment or wide reaching consequences. It is recognising the need for culture change that is the starting point. Then, we must understand that we all have a role to play, how the approach differs from previous ways of working, and how to play our part – which is new territory for many leaders in the system. Our team play a critical role as leaders who model this approach, helping others to recognise their ability to lead culture change from within communities and organisations.

What have we done?

Our activities involved identifying the necessary culture change, then engaging in activities, developing campaigns and changing public narrative to support that. For example:

  • Recognising the value of narrative to support culture change and ‘raise the voice of physical activity’, the marketing and communications team put a plan in place to upskill staff and prepare them for media interviews. This involved developing key messages to support presentations, report and blog writing, and podcasts.
  • We worked with the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership’s Population Health team to develop a brief for a mental wellbeing campaign. We commissioned an agency to deliver this, aiming at changing culture and beliefs about the connection between mental wellbeing and active lives for all.
  • We provided ongoing support to ensure culture change is part of the conversation across all priority areas of GM Moving. For example, we support people to notice the signs of culture change, capture them and share them more systematically.
  • We began leading a shift towards more inclusive language, imagery and narrative, including developing an inclusive language guide with expert partners. This included a decision to move away from using the term ‘BAME’ towards more specific language, using more age-positive language and imagery, and featuring more representative stories. For example, there should be increased use of the phrase ‘walking, cycling and wheeling’ with more images and stories of non-standard cycles and people using multiple mobility aids.
  • We helped amplify and spread Greater Manchester’s #IsThisOkay campaign. This seeks to tackle a culture of misogyny so women and girls feel safe on our streets and in public spaces, and can actively get about without fear. 
  • We also led a shift away from the ‘car is king’ myths that are widely held in society. We received positive responses to the Streets for All strategy, interest in the 20-Minute Neighbourhood and 15-Minute City schemes and increasing talk of ‘car reduction’ and more active travel.

What did we learn?

We learnt how the simple act of noticing the myths, mindsets, language and imagery in society, then working to change them with an invitation to others to join in, can be simple, effective and low cost ways to lead and support culture change.

Sharing culture change examples and stories of change helps people to see how it applies in their work (such as using positive ageing images and language). We learnt more needs to be done systematically to notice, gather and share signs of cultural shift.

We also learnt about the value of simple, agreed key messages that can be adapted to different situations to provide clarity and consistency of narrative and make it easier for people to understand and connect. Our agreed key messages work for meetings, writing and interviews, and the clear narrative about GreaterSport’s role in GM Moving helps other partners see how they can articulate their role in the movement.

We learnt that, whilst cultural shifts usually take a long time, they can happen very quickly when circumstances necessitate a rapid shift in behaviours, as seen during the pandemic.

Case study

We know that winter and the colder weather often leads to a decline in the number of people being physically active outside. We ran a campaign in early 2022 aiming to change that narrative, challenge deeply held myths and mindsets about being active outdoors, and work together to support and motivate GM residents to remain active during the winter. The campaign #WhateverTheWeather was one way we achieved this. We produced three social media videos showing various weather conditions and, where appropriate, demonstrating how to be active outside safely.

The videos generated 407,687 impressions and a reach of 134,378 overall over a four-week period on a media spend budget of £500.

Further details

For more information on our work within Culture and System Change please contact Eve@gmmoving.co.uk