From PIEs to the PIE Abacus

Ambition and modesty in principle

We need a little history here.


The concept of a psychologically informed environment, a PIE, was first suggested in 2010[1] as a broad description of emerging practice in the UK in ‘frontline’ services for people with complex needs, and at high risk of social exclusion. The examples given were specifically from homelessness services; and it was here that the idea first began to take off.

PIEs 1

The ambition behind the first more detailed descriptions of PIEs was to capture, to convey, and so to promote such creative practice. Gradually these became formulated (around 2015) into the first tentative full account, now known as PIEs 1.

PIEs 2

The ambition behind publication of PIEs 2, in 2018, was to update these first descriptions with a wider picture; and to create a single coherent but flexible and multi-faceted framework for describing practice as it was continuing to evolve. This broader description aimed to cover all the many kinds of settings in which services operate, and all the presenting problems with which complex needs might be expressed.

The principle

Those only at the beginnings of this ‘PIE journey’ should not be inhibited by unfavourable comparisons with those more advanced; and those held back by constraints outside their control should be positively encouraged to identify what needed to change outside as well as inside their services.


Ambition and modesty in practice

The Pizazz

As with PIEs 2, the ambition of the Pizazz was that, as far as possible, it should be useful to as many services as possible, at whatever stage, in helping them consider whether this was right for them. It should allow for a wide range in degrees of progress in the development of services in this new direction.

The PIE Abacus

The ambition of the PIE Abacus is now to build on this wider scope, encouraging development not just within services but also between services, in networks - of management hierarchies, locality pathways, communities of practice and research. In doing so we hope it may help to tackle some of the more systemic issues that we hear are holding back progress in many areas.


The principle (reprise)

In a sector where under-funding, low wages and rather scruffy buildings are endemic, the PIE Abacus process should not be so demanding of staff time, enthusiasm, even computer literacy, that in practice it excludes those services, service users and other community groups that are simply not ready for such an investment of time and even quite modest financial costs.

It is tempting to allow for the great British failure – a heroic but ultimately doomed, impossible task, undertaken mainly to lift morale. But it is better to aim instead for a more modest approach, that goes at the highly variable pace of particular services in their particular situation.


[1] See ‘Is the PIE evolving?’ on the PIElink


The simplest, most effective way to evaluate and improve your PIE from Daniel O'Brien on Vimeo.

PIElink pages


Is the PIE evolving (summary) : HERE

PIEs 2.0 : HERE

PIEs assessment - what is the point? : HERE

A single framework : HERE

The PIE Abacus - an on-line Pizazz (summary) : HERE


The PIE Abacus

  • Essential background for PIE leads

The PIE Abacus - essential briefing for PIE leads (and any others in comparable roles) : HERE

Weighing the costs and 'value added' of the PIE Abacus : HERE


  • Applications in particular settings:

The PIE Abacus – in medium to large agencies : HERE

The PIE Abacus – in local practice networks : HERE

The PIE Abacus – in smaller 'stand alone' services : HERE

The PIE Abacus – as a research tool : HERE

The PIE Abacus – in communities of practice : HERE

The PIE Abacus – in service user-led assessments : HERE

The PIE Abacus – with services using PIEs1 : HER


All PIE Abacus FAQs HERE