Greater Manchester Moving was not born overnight. It has taken years of commitment and partnership working from people and organisations across our city region to enable it to be where it is today.

What is important, in sharing our journey, is that there is no ‘should’ for every place. All we can share is what we did, based on where we started. It’s also important to say that we are still grappling with many questions of our own and are always looking outside of Greater Manchester (GM) to see what we can learn from others. It is hoped that sharing our journey in this way, will contribute to an open, ongoing, collaborative conversation with others who share similar ambitions.

Our journey, up until 2018, has been written in collaboration with 15 senior leaders across Greater Manchester, as part of work done with evaluation partners, the Revaluation Collective.

The Starting Point

Greater Manchester has a long history of collaboration, under the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) where the ten local authorities have worked together for. This is a significant contributor to the Greater Manchester Moving journey, particularly since devolution in 2014.

The Manchester Independent Economic review (MIER), published in 2009, provided the underpinnings of successive Greater Manchester strategies for local growth and public service reform. Their recommendations paved the way for the creation of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2011, the election of GM’s first metro mayor in 2017, and a series of devolution deals that strengthened GM’s governing capacities across a range of policy areas.

There is also great sporting tradition and identity in the city region. There was the strong foundation of a well-connected physical activity and sport system, with high performing leisure and cultural trusts and the Active Partnership (GreaterSport).

In 2014, physical activity, sport and health leaders around the country were awakening to the huge and fast-growing challenge and cost of inactivity. The emerging narrative was that a shift of focus to addressing inactivity was required to effect real change.

In Greater Manchester, each local authority Chief Executive takes a lead responsibility for specific agenda across the ten local authorities. Steven Pleasant, Chief Executive at Tameside MBC, was the lead for health. He and Yvonne Harrison (then Chief Executive at GreaterSport) were instrumental to the start of the GM Moving journey.

Developing a Shared Purpose

With the growing realisation that tackling inactivity was more than a conversation about sport, partners from across the system were brought together. With partners from all boroughs, across planning, schools, transport and education brought together, the rationale for repositioning sport was pitched. Despite shrinking budgets and growing demands, everyone was in. The intent was clear, even if the plan as yet was not.

Following this meeting, it was critical to win the hearts and minds of system leaders, who were unaware of the costs of inactivity, and saw sports participation as something that ‘fit people’ did and promoted. An evidence base was assembled and turned into a business case, which helped to develop new language such as “the CMO’s magic pill”. This generated debate, and slowly, the momentum grew.

At around the same time, Greater Manchester’s devolution and subsequent health and social care devolution was announced in the winter of 2014/15. With a £6 billion budget for health and social care across GM, this presented both a huge opportunity and challenge. It signalled a new chapter, accelerated transformation and reform, inviting innovation and new paradigms to secure the fastest and greatest improvement to the health, wealth and wellbeing of the 2.8 million people of Greater Manchester.

A Blueprint for Change

A working group was then formed, which Steven Pleasant chaired, which drew a great variety if partners; the lead Director of Public Health, Transport for Greater Manchester, involvement from New Economy, and Sport England. This then became the GM Moving Leadership Group that convened over many months, drafting the GM Moving Blueprint for Change.

A significant step forward. An articulation of the cost of inactivity. The case for change. A shared purpose bringing the system together with a plan to deliver.

In July 2015, just 18 months after it was first thought of, Greater Manchester Moving: A Blueprint for Physical Activity and Sport, was launched at an event where every GM leader and every council Chief Executive signed the 10 pledges it contained. This senior buy-in brought great momentum.

Formation of GM Active (Nov 2015)

The 13 cultural and leisure trusts across Greater Manchester understood that they could play a key role in Greater Manchester devolution, in particular health and social care transformation. Their existing assets and role as deliverers and facilitators of physical activity in localities, communities and neighbourhoods uniquely placed them with great ability to reach GM’s residents. They also recognised that to develop this role and scale up best practice and learning, a more formal collaboration between the trusts was needed.

The trusts then, in an unprecedented move, responded by collaborating as one voice, as one team; GM Active.

Governed by a Memorandum of Understanding between its member organisations it provides a commitment to working together on a number of key objectives spanning profile and engagement; service development and capacity and; resilience. With all 13 trusts working towards shared outcomes and a collective vision.

Embedding physical activity in health devolution

Excellent progress had been made to this point, but there was still a lot of work to do. The sport and physical activity sector was successful, but working in relative silo to other systems, such as health. Physical activity rates were low, no collaborative models and no system leadership for physical activity. Whilst GM Moving started to change this lack of system leadership, leaders outside of this group were sceptical about how the sport sector was going to reach those who would benefit most from activity; the inactive.

Health and social care devolution presented an opportunity to overcome this scepticism. In December 2015 when GM Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) published their five-year plan, Taking Charge, physical activity was placed right in the middle. This put GM Moving within Taking Charge, and inside the governance of GMCA - before that it didn't have a home. Now there was a route, some authority, and a funding stream.

The influence and support of key stakeholders, such as John Rouse who lead the GMHSCP, was key to ensuring physical activity was legitimised within the health sector. The inclusion of physical activity within Taking Charge, and within the 2017 Population Health Plan, was significant. GM Moving partners were now able to have a seat at the public health table, no longer needing to make the business case for physical activity.

National collaboration

Sport England identified that there was something different happening in GM. They were keen to explore the opportunities of devolution and what this could mean for physical activity and sport. This led to the GM Physical Activity and Sport Commissioning Project beginning in February 2016; an extensive process that involved reviewing devolution documents and many interviews to get a true picture of the GM landscape. What this project identified, was the unique position GM was in, with clarity of purpose, culture and devolution.

A clear and extensive programme was emerging from the project that involved working with people across the lifecourse, in place-based contexts and with workforces across the board. Given the size and scope of the potential programme it was recommended that a Strategic Manager be appointed to help realise this potential.

A high-level summit was held for Local Authority cabinet members and other leaders to get their buy-in into this work. Two sessions were run, both with Dr William Bird; hundreds of people came, momentum was high.

As a result of the project with Sport England, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two was signed in July 2016 by key strategic leaders. Developed and designed within a three-month period, it was the first agreement of its kind in the country.

The signing of the MoU showed commitment to the collective desire to do things differently, but the work of culture and system change to turn that commitment into reality was just beginning.

There was a need to put a team in place to drive forward this agreed plan of action. That started with the development of the role of a Strategic Manager, which Hayley Lever started in April 2017.

Andy Burnham's Manifesto

GM Moving partners started engaging politicians in the lead up to the GM Mayoral elections, with offers to all candidates, including Andy Burnham. The offer, was to take the GM Moving Blueprint, and work with candidates around that.

Andy Burnham engaged in and committed to this agenda and wanted to hear people’s views, so, an insight-based stakeholder event was held to engage the system.

Andy campaigned on increasing physical activity, and on having a Walking and Cycling Commissioner. GM Moving now had high-level backing for its agenda. Then, when Andy was elected as Mayor in May 2017, we collaborated to make his campaigning points, a reality.

The Mayor’s ambition for, and commitment to the physical activity and sport agenda is second to none. GM Moving was taken to a new level.

GM Moving refresh

Between April and the election of Andy Burnham in May, it became clear that a refresh of GM Moving was needed due to the massive progress made since the Blueprint for Change was released.

The whole system set about co-producing a new GM Moving Plan. Leaders from every part of the system made their contribution in response to the question; what would it take to bring about population scale change in physical activity engagement in your part of the system?

Spatial planners, clinicians, active travel experts, head teachers, early years specialists, physical activity leads and many more, wrote the GM Moving Refresh, a comprehensive plan to deliver an ambitious target, set by the Mayor.

It set out the principles by which Greater Manchester would lead this work; transformational change, with a whole system approach at its heart. Embodying and building on principles that were already present in GM through its principles of reform. Read the Greater Manchester Moving ‘Approach to Transformational Change’ here.

Person and community centred, GM Moving set out the priority actions to address inactivity and increase engagement in physical activity and sport at each stage of the life course, from early years to older age. Priorities for ‘place’ were also set, including the built environment, natural capital, walking and cycling infrastructure.

A big ambition was set out to develop skilled advocates, clinicians and practitioners across the system. To create the widest possible workforce including primary and secondary care; planning; transport engineering; education; community and voluntary sector and; physical activity and sport providers.

All of this was underpinned by the evidence base, in an insight led approach; understanding people and communities and engaging effectively through marketing and communications and campaigns.

The implementation of GM Moving was set out as a learning journey. What GM Moving was aiming to do, a whole system approach to population scale change, had not been done before. So we wanted to help create an evidence base for this; evaluation of impact, outcomes and process would be vital.

In July 2017, Lord Peter Smith and Andy Burnham launched GM Moving 2017-21 at the GM Health and Social Care Partnership Board and Greater Manchester Combined Authority meetings. This was followed by an activation event in a central Manchester street; builders dancing, leaders playing table tennis in the rain, kids riding bikes and Mayor Andy Burnham boxing in a tent. It was a significant day in the history of GM Moving.

Walking and Cycling Commissioner Appointed

Alongside the work to write the new GM Moving plan, the Mayor’s team had been working hard to recruit Greater Manchester’s first Walking and Cycling Commissioner.

The day before GM Moving was launched, in one of Andy Burnham’s first live Q&A sessions with the public he announced:

“I said I would do something for cycling in Greater Manchester. Tomorrow, there’s quite a big step forward for cycling in Greater Manchester. I will be announcing Greater Manchester’s new Cycling and Walking Commissioner with the aim of building a high-quality, safe, dedicated cycling network across all our ten boroughs, getting more people out of their cars and onto their bikes, making air quality better, improving health and cutting congestion."

Chris Boardman was then announced as the Walking and Cycling Commissioner.

Six months after this appointment, the Made to Move report was presented to the leaders of the Combined Authority and the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester. Made to Move set out fifteen steps to transform Greater Manchester, by changing the way we get around.

After being approved by the leaders the Made to Move team started network mapping the whole of Greater Manchester. The Made to Move is the strategy specifically for utility walking and cycling. The Bee Network is the infrastructure plan, and where the Mayor’s Challenge Fund will be invested, to enable walking and cycling.

In combination with GM Moving’s behaviour change plan, this will enable, support and promote a social movement for everyday walking and cycling.

Investment as a Catalyst for Change

On the GM Moving journey, there have been a number of key opportunities to bring investment in to support the work.

Historically, funding has been one of the key reasons that partners have come together. Greater Manchester was on a different collaborative journey, through GM Moving. A shared purpose, a vision, a plan and an agreed set of principles to work to. One of the big tests is how those principles would stay the course when money became the focus.

Active Ageing

The Sport England Active Ageing investment programme offered the first opportunity to test the approach to transformational change. It provided a great deal of learning, as leaders across the system started to use this approach to guide the work on all 12 GM Moving priorities. In particular, we learned that in the first step of establishing the case for change, early community engagement is essential to ensure that we are setting the right course and examining the right evidence, data and insight. Starting with people and communities comes first. Find out more about the Greater Manchester Active Ageing programme, and what was learned, here.

Local Delivery Pilot

In early 2017, Sport England launched the Local Delivery Pilot (LDP) process. An opportunity to bid to receive financial investment to do things differently in a place.

Whilst this was an exciting opportunity to grow the work of GM Moving, it also caused concerns for GM. The creation of the MoU between GM and Sport England had built rich relationships, but this process felt transactional not relational. Competitive not collaborative. This is not uncommon; willingness to change versus the difficulties of changing processes.

There were also concerns that the LDP would drive a ‘programme’ mentality, rather than one about communities, system change and behaviour change. Although there was a sense that investment in GM should come via the MoU, rather than through a bidding process, this wasn’t possible, so an Expression of Interest was submitted in March 2017.

In December 2017 GM was announced as one of 12 LDP areas across the country who would receive investment; and in July 2018, it was announced that GM would receive £10 million to do this work.

Oldham visit for the Local Delivery Pilot Assessment    GM Moving in Tameside in case studies

The journey from 2018

So much has happened since 2018: the GM walking ambition; local pilot implementation; the That Counts campaign and so much more. We are currently working on writing up the journey from then to now, until then, you can read GM Moving Exec Lead, Hayley Lever’s personal reflections on that time period here.