PIEs and 'psychologically informed business environments

An environment is not just made up of buildings and trees.

There are many possible ways to define 'an environment'. In general, it means the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. Almost by definition, it means everything and anything that surrounds, and gives context to, any more specific activity (or creature).

The idea of a business environment is probably more familiar in commercial operations, where it usually means all of the factors, both internal and external, that affect how a company functions including employees, customers, management structures, supply and demand opportunities and constraints, and business regulations.

But the idea that a business within itself creates an internal environment in which its own staff (and customers) then operate suggests that a business environment, too, can be 'psychologically informed'.

Here we have a handful of examples of services specifically designed to engage people with complex needs, using financial incentive as a tool for engagement, and a way to help people - and especially those with very short timescales for their attention spans and capacity for commitment - to find value and purpose, and stability, in their lives.

Further background reading/listening/viewing

A growing selection of new and used material

NB: this collection of pages, and selection of examples, is incomplete. We are still gathering some of the material; but this will take some time; and these links and this material will be built up in stages. But the themes we propose to use are:

  • Introducing the PIE approach : HERE
  • The built environment and adaptations : HERE
  • Using the whole environment (1) : HERE
  • Using the whole environment (2) :  HERE
  • Outreach, pathways, environments without buildings : HERE
  • PIEs, communities and a sense of belonging : HERE
  • Clubhouses, cores, and campus models : HERE
  • PIEs in therapy settings : HERE
  • 'Psychologically informed business environments' : HERE
  • Whole system PIEs  : HERE
  • PIEs and ‘exclusion-informed research’ HERE


Banking on Time by Graham Gardiner describes the work of a medium-stay hostel, exploring a way of working with short attention spans, and a highly person-centred approach to finding and developing people's strengths. It was also a creative use of the hostels' agency staff budget. HERE

Building recovery communities by Brian Morgan outlines the development of a peer support programme for recovery from addiction. Beginning with a local users consultation exercise, the community created a business structure, rather than the most conventional self-help/therapy group approach. This is a business model that allowed its members to work together, but no longer be defined by the problem they had had when they joined. HERE

The Big Issue (an interview with Stephen Robertson) describes the work of the newspaper as a psychologically informed business environment, carefully designed for working with  people with initially very short attention spans, and gradually scaffolding new strengths HERE 


Also related to this theme are all the services that run work experience programmes or other workshops as a natural part of the life of the accommodation-based service. In the UK, the Simon communities are an example of services where the work programme is optional but integral.

For some, a work scheme represents a step up and away from the initial engagement in a hostel to meet more immediate needs for shelter. 

In the US, recent policy to commend 'Recovery housing' - seen as quite compatible with a Housing First strategy - argues that the social and activity-based support that such schemes can offer are valuable also for the employment opportunities that they can make available. 


There is also a growing body of research into the health benefits of 'ecotherapy' - engagement with the 'green' environment; and especially for those for whom engagement in a social environment can be simply too threatening at first. 

The Crypt at St George's HERE

PIElink pages

The Umwelt :  HERE

PIEs and Corporate Social Responsibility : HERE


Library examples

Banking on Time – Graham Gardiner  HERE

Building recovery communities – Brian Morgan   HERE

The Big Issue (an interview with Stephen Robertson )  HERE 


Also related

The Crypt at St George's interview/podcast (Coming soon)

Recovery Housing - policy briefing HERE

Simon Community Leith  - youth work; community project; gardening  (Coming Soon)