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National Trust 

Purpose & values alignment to drive culture change and celebrate 125 years

The Challenge

The National Trust is the largest conservation charity in Europe: 

  • 780 miles of coastline, 250,000 hectares of land, more than 500 historic houses, castles, parks and gardens and nearly 1 million works of art.

  • 6 million members,  12,000 staff and 64,000 volunteers pre-pandemic. 


In 2015, the Trust set out an ambitious strategy to tackle the crisis in nature.

To do this, they looked at making experiences better and engaging more people to inspire action.

At the time, the National Trust was mid-way through a 10-year strategy, ‘Playing our Part’.

There had been a change in leadership with a new Director General, Hilary McGrady taking the reins.

Whilst there wasn’t a desire to change the strategy, there was a desire to reframe the strategy - emphasising a number of shifts.

Through the research, we identified some key tensions within the Trust that needed to be navigated when shaping the desired culture. We uncovered the strengths of mindsets and behaviours versus how the Trust needed to evolve to support the strategy re-emphasis. We also identified some key shifts through our culture observations - the things that the Trust needed to tackle to ensure the strategy re-emphasis could be achieved.

“The greatest task ahead for me is changing our mindset as an organisation - I want us to shift our focus from being about places for people to people who love places.  To do that, we will need to be open to change, we will need to be prepared to put ourselves in the shoes of others and respond to their needs.”


Hilary McGrady, Director General

The National Trust

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The Solution: Unifying Purpose

Through our research, we:

  • Built a picture of how the National Trust was delivering against its purpose today

  • Sought to understand why their people and volunteers do what they do every day

  • Made connections between all their existing programmes, the 10-year strategy, and their existing purpose

  • Found common ways to connect culture and behaviours to the purpose

  • Understood how purpose was articulated across the Trust.

Through this research we identified that there was no shortage of purpose, in fact everyone was driven by this in the organisation - but would they describe this purpose in the same way? Our recommendation was to make  a subtle but meaningful shift: 

From the focus on nature: - for ever, for everyone.
To the focus on people: nature, beauty, history for everyone, for ever.

We shaped a narrative to support the refreshed purpose, to simply articulate “who we are and what we stand for”. 

This narrative became the foundation for all communications and provided: 

  • Clarity and shared understanding on purpose and direction.

  • Unification through consistency of messaging for their people, members, supporters, partners, volunteers, and the general public.

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The Solution: Co-created and shared Values & Behaviours 


With a refreshed purpose and narrative in place, we worked with the Trust to shape a new set of values and behaviours that would ensure staff and volunteers could all play their part and deliver the purpose every day.


The journey itself to the values and behaviours was an essential part of this process. We supported the National Trust in adopting a truly inclusive consultation with their trustees, staff, volunteers, members, supporters, suppliers and partners. This was a signal of change in itself, as it was the first time the National Trust had taken this type of approach. This included surveys, focus groups, forums and drop-in sessions at properties.


The Trust's people played an active role in shaping the values and behaviours. We wanted the values to be relevant to everyone in every role, and inspire, motivate and celebrate everything and everyone. For example, they no longer focused on ‘You’, the individual, but ‘We’ as a collective.

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The outputs included: 

  • A launch video and event on the Trust’s 125th Anniversary

  • Manager’s guide and briefing

  • Interactive toolkit with activities and conversation starters to bring the values to life in teams

The Solution: Embedding into everyday experience


At the same time, we took the opportunity to refresh the Staff and Volunteer Experience, working with people to identify ways for the purpose and values and behaviours to be truly embedded throughout a reimagined experience. 


Once again, we adopted a truly inclusive approach, inviting both staff and volunteers to identify and co-create unified ‘moments that matter’ - inspiring introductions, warm welcome, quality conversations, and thoughtful ‘thank-yous’.


We developed a set of experience principles:

  • Love people – we take the time to get to know our people, treat them as individuals, support in every way we can.

  • One team mindset – we strive to align the staff and volunteer experience, ensuring we are inclusive and accessible.

  • Keep it simple – we help staff and volunteers to navigate the experience, ensuring every process or interaction is simple, easy and effortless.

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“The team were meticulous and attentive, really getting under the skin of our complex organisation, and providing real (and usable) insights to help us move to a new vision for our future. simply put; great people, great service, great results.”


Project Stakeholder 

The National Trust

If you'd like to understand this project or our approach in more detail,

email or call 023 8082 8505

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