The Three R's 101

We use the phrase 'The Three Rs' as a shorthand to focus on the day to day running of a service. The Three Rs theme provide a more precise and tighter focus on the nitty gritty of the day-to-day life of services – the rules and procedures of the service.

The psychological awareness that we bring, the training and support of staff, the spaces in which we work, all provide us with many opportunities to engage. But in making constructive relationships, it’s the Three Rs that do most of the heavy lifting.

The centrality of relationships still runs through everything. But it does so most obviously, most practically,  in the Three Rs.

The essential ingredients are (obviously) those three:

  • the rules of the service, that govern the day-to-day operations
  • the roles that are available - for both staff and users - within the social structure
  • and finally, the more un-written rules, the ways in which the service actually works - the responses or responsiveness to events.

This trio of ‘Rules, Roles, and Responsiveness’ aims to focus on the immediate and practical expressions of a service - what it does, the way it works: it's operational procedures, as they affect the life and opportunities of the service users. This is where the centrality or relationships has most tangible impact.

The rules

The rules and procedures of a service will cover all aspects of the service that are set by the agency, as established practice.  We will naturally tend to be particularly interested in the procedures and rules that directly affect the service users and govern interactions with them  - referral procedures, opening hours, care and support planning, access to specific areas of a building, sanctions or  eviction procedures.

Sometimes procedures arise from the ways the service is contracted, or funded, that are outside the service's or the agency's control. Some times they may come form 'agency policy' that may not have kept pace with the ambition to be more 'psychologically informed'. But sometimes there is scope for the procedures to be fine tuned.  Analysing thoughtfully the impact of these, to see what might be remedied, particularly in discussions with service users ( and sometime with other agencies,) can be very fruitful.

The roles

A key part of the organisation of any services is the range of roles that are available – roles for both staff and service users - that allow the individual to do what they do.  Most such roles arise in the day-to-day running of a service or projects, whether formally or more informally.

Formal, more structured roles, such as keyworker, peer mentor, or user group representative, can offer opportunities to engage, to try new things, to grow.  But so can much more informal roles, such as feeding the cat. Out on the streets, people often do have informal roles, as members of a street community. Its important to recognise and to build on such strengths.

The responsiveness

Plus we want to have something about how the un-written rules can shape the culture of an organisation, the rather more intangible aspects of the 'feel', the culture of the organisation, as it affects the users. We have called this the responsiveness - how flexible or variable can the service be, and how 'personalised' the service.

NB: The responsiveness of a service here, in the Three Rs, refers mainly to how the service engages with its service users. The more general attitudes in an agency, that can enhance or limit its responsiveness in practice, can be explored in the Learning and Enquiry themes.

For more on the thinking behind creating this cluster of issues theme as a central theme for PIEs, see: 'The Three R's', in the Discussions section : HERE

Further background reading/listening/viewing


For more on rules, roles and responsiveness in practice, see The Three R's : HERE

The other key features of the revised version are:

  • Psychological awareness ; HERE

    • Empathy and emotional intelligence : HERE
    • Approaches and techniques : HERE
    • Psychological models : HERE


    Training and support : HERE

    Learning and enquiry : HERE

    • Reflective practice : HERE
    • A culture of Enquiry : HERE
    • Sector engagement : HERE
    • Evidence- generating practice : HERE


    Spaces of opportunity : HERE

    • The built environment : HERE
    • Networks and surroundings : HERE
    • Pathways, systems and system coherence : HERE


    The Three Rs : HERE

    • Rules and procedures : HERE
    • Roles and relationships : HERE
    • Responsiveness : HERE


    Where are relationships in PIEs 2.0? : HERE

    A lived experience view of PIEs : HERE

    What's the Big Idea?  : HERE

    From PIEs 1 to PIEs 2.0 : HERE

    Will there be a PIEs 3? : HERE

    Digging Deeper

Rules, roles and responsiveness : HERE

So: where is 'relationships' in the PIEs 2.0 framework? HERE

For more on the development of these areas, see:

PIEs 2.0 - the development process HERE

Pizazz: A new and more customisable working framework for PIEs HERE