Is the PIE evolving?

The idea of a psychologically informed environment, a PIE, has emerged in the space of just a few years to become one of the more interesting - even inspiring - new ways of thinking about the services we create and provide for vulnerable people, and particularly in the field of homelessness.

But if becoming and being a PIE is a journey, as it has been said, then the same might be true - and might need to be particularly true - of the PIE concept itself, and of the operational framework that has developed, to express and put this idea into effect.

In this section of the PIElink, we will first trace the origins of the concept of a PIE, and the broader context in which this idea arose; then look at the original (2010) formulations of what a PIE is, and then the more detailed version that developed over the next few years (from 2012- approx 2016).

We will then explore some of the more problematic areas in that 'classic' formulation, and some of the new areas and more recent developments in practice that, it is suggested, the idea may now need to address.  Finally, we begin to sketch here the possible outlines of a revised formulation, incorporating and expanding on the earlier accounts, and addressing the problematic areas.

This revised version aims to be not only more up-to-date, but also perhaps better suited to new needs, such as research, and service specification. But any revised version should aim to achieve greater precision, whilst - crucially - retaining the flexibility and needs-led character of the original. (For a discussion of the underlying principles and requirements of a PIEs specification too, see the sections on 'Distance travelled', elsewhere on this site.)

In summary:

The roots: here we explore the origins of the PIE in practice, in the social inclusion policies of the millennial years Labour government in the UK; the earlier roots in social psychiatry, therapeutic communities and 'enabling environments': the wider context of the changing nature of commissioned services in the New Public Management; and the more personal journeys of some of the founders of the project.

The original account: here we explore the first formulation of the term PIE, in an article by Johnson & Haigh, and its immediate adoption in the guidance published by the UK Dept of Communities and Local Government, and the National Mental Health Development Unit

The ‘classic’ formulation: here we explore the more 'in-depth' and 'operational' guidance produced by the same team, and developed further by the Managed Innovation Network seminar series, and the assessment and implementation guidance for services, commissioned by Westminster City Council

Problematic areas in the classic formulation: here we explore some of the areas of the 'classic' formulation that proved problematic or contentious, with some of the attempts made to reconcile developing practice with the more formal definition of a PIE.

New areas to incorporate: here we explore some of the areas that had not been part of the original formulation, but yet were clearly relevant, and/or overlapping with the general idea and common practice.

A new formulation: finally, here we begin to suggest some revised formulations that may prove more comprehensive, more flexible, and yet also more adaptable to the future development of PIEs, as a service model.


See also: "Memes; a cautionary tale, Part One; The psychologically Informed Environment"

Distance travelled: towards a PIEs assessment and specification tool