System Change

Animating System Change

Animating System Change is a our animated films and capacity building work stream, supported by the Poldham Puckham Charitable Trust. More and more civil society organisations call for ‘system change not climate change’ yet many do not provide much clarity on what ‘system change’ might really mean. In this work stream we have been collaborating with experts and NGOs to generate a short series of informative creative communication tools, focussing on art driven animated film, to help give meaning to the catch cry “system change not climate change”, inform the public about possible solutions, and build the creative communications capacity of NGOs and researchers who share our charitable mission.

In November 2023 we our latest short animation created with research partners Positive Money UK. The parody game show explodes the received idea “we can’t afford” higher investment on climate action, renewable energy, or investment in essential public services. Also helping to build capacity for environmental and other campaigners that don’t always understand how the money system works, and inform the wider public that a range of possible solutions exist to finance the investments and transformations we need to get on track for zero carbon, and a life of dignity for all. The research we drew upon revealed some ways in which the money system in the UK is currently skewed in favour of fossil fuel giants and big banks instead of people and planet. But the rules can change: watch the entertaining 6 minute film (awarded 5 stars on Films for Action!) to find out how!

HeadSpin! Rewrite the rules of the money game

Also, read the blog with all the facts and research underpinnings from our research partners here:

HeadSpin! Redirecting money flows to finance climate action and essential services for all

Joining new dots: climate, mental health and economic system change

In October 2022 we created a special little anulated film with with researchers from CUSP (The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity) and campaigners from Wellbeing Economy Alliance. Our beautiful 6 minute film, Don’t Tell Me to Just Breathe (watch it below) seeks to address the often silenced connections between climate breakdown, the pressures of the current growth addicted economic model, and the spiralling crises of anxiety and depression in rich countries like the UK. The novel angle of mental health outcomes is used to explain the key pillars of a Wellbeing economy as a solution set, describing an economic system that would work within social and environmental boundaries. We conducted in depth discussional interviews with senior communications managers from large environmental NGOs, some of whom confirmed the potential of deploying the new narrative approaches and linking of issues in this film. Rated 5 stars on Films for Action, do also check out more about the project, including further reading resources, here: 

Our Communications Learnings Report, including findings from research interviews about the film we conducted with senior campaigners from national environmental NGOs, can be read here: Comms Learnings Report – Just Breathe

A system changing Green New Deal

In 2021 we examined how a broader and more transformative Green New Deal in the UK could start to drive system change, beyond the current unsustainable and growth addicted model.  Bringing together experts in post-growth and ecological economics, with senior campaigners, the process of co-creation helped advance understanding and communication of what a truly system changing Green New Deal could look like. That first animated film was rated 4.5 stars out of 5 by Films for Action here, and can also be viewed below. Find out more about the project, the partners, and read our communications learnings report at the project website here:

Visualising sustainable economics

We were recently engaged by Professor Nicky Pouw and her team at University of Amsterdam to create a design solution for how to visualise ‘well-being economics’ at city level. Working with one of our talented designers – Tiziana Alocci, we came up with the above – a city level ‘dashboard’ of indicators, a well being ‘tree’ suggestive of the interconnected nature of the three dimensions of well-being, and the inseparability of human well-being with nature. After several prototypes, the most simple design we came up with won out. (Data yet to be plugged in to the dials). We hope these key visuals will help gain traction and public understanding of alternative economics not only in Amsterdam but here in the UK where we are planning similar city level visualisations.

Croydon - Creative Engagement on System Change 2023

We are grateful to Arts Council England for awarding us grant support to launch a new project about local transformations in Croydon next year for Borough of Culture 2023. Our project involves a series of community workshops working through a visioning and deliberative process about what ‘system change’ (towards zero carbon and socially just and inclusive futures) means for Croydon. This community process will interact with an immersive artist residency co-hosted by us and in situ at Turf Studios in Croydon. The results and ideas will be contained within an informative immersive experience showcased at Museum of Croydon, late 2023, with audience testing research in peripheral libraries in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Croydon. Watch this space.

Communications work for NGOs

We have worked for environmental NGOs to provide new inspiration, generate bold new strategic ideas, and embed creatives in the processes of change. Combining campaign and policy expertise with artists and creative processes, and re-purposing the role of the artist within society. Artists are people with different sensitivities, different ways of thinking, and are often our sentinels when society is veering wildly off course. They are also naturally comfortable with the creative process. People are just starting to wake up to this: change makers and non-profits are in great need of creative renewal and could thrive by collaborating with artists in unexpected ways.  Our key added value here as Swarm Dynamics is by acting as interdisciplinary bridge – being able to cross the disciplines of campaigning, environmental policy, communication, alternative economics, arts and facilitation. Experience shows that such a bridge is often needed for NGOs and artists to know how to work together beyond simply following a graphic design brief.  Here are some successful examples of how we have worked:

  • Artist placements. In 2017 we successfully engaged some of our some of our graphic designers and branding experts to help environmental and social NGOs escape their exhausted ‘greenie’ visual identity, and pursue a more artful approach, informed by the research into how to communicate to the unconverted. As our core staff combine expertise in climate change policy and campaigning with creative arts direction, we often devise the creative brief in collaboration with the campaign or NGO. Recent examples include website and artwork creation for the European wide PeoplesBudget campaign by designer, Tibor Miklos, and referring the visionary system change artist Luc Schuiten for events by THE SHIFT in Belgium.
  • Creative and innovation retreats and staff trainings. We have also devised and facilitated creative factories and workshops in creative thinking to help campaigners think differently about their work and generate ideas for action led campaigning by applying the creative process.  Many participants have described these as inspiring or even ‘transformational’ for their work. After delivering creative thinking training for their campaigners, Friends of the Earth Europe (including UK) brought us back to run our STORY LAB for communications manages from their national offices, facilitated by Swarm’s David Holyoake with 2 artists in residence working up live story board and animation. Bringing effective story telling techniques to their communications and helping create new narrative around system change.  With 22 FOE national participants and 3 Swarm artists in residence for live creation, we came of the 2 days with a catchy story board and mocked up animation to put theory into creative practice.

If you are an NGO, change maker or an artist – get in touch if you would like to explore the possibilities for artist placement, creative communication workshop about communicating system change, or to work with one of our designers.


If you are an organisation seeking our help as creative catalyst to think differently about your environmental campaign strategies, to deliver creative workshops or educational events about communicating rapid transition, or for inspirational guest talks involving creatives, please use the contact form below and address your query to David.


If you are an artist, creative, or change maker generally interested in joining the Swarm collective or finding out more about what we do and would like to do, please fill in the below mail form below and one of our team will get back to you in a week or two. Alternatively, follow and ping us on facebook or twitter.


If you are able to support our unique work embedding the arts within system change and sustainable futures, please help us keep going in the aftermath of COVID19 with a small donation, which you can make securely through our page on the Charities Aid Foundation – please click here