PIE and the PIE Abacus as a research tool

Larger data sets for complex needs

The PIE concept, and the PIEs 2 framework, are both peculiarly 'multi-purpose'; that is, they intend to cover a wide range of different services, and different client/customer/user groups, in a single framework (HERE). This is, as we freely acknowledge (HERE), quite an ambition.

But there are still further ways in which the PIEs framework, and the PIE Abacus as a measurement tool, may have uses as yet un-explored.

One such is the potential that a single framework offers for obtaining large datasets for the purpose of research into complex interventions for complex needs, but without the practical constraint of the additional logistics, and costs, of travel.

With a PIE Abacus licence, researchers will then be able to create active, participating information networks, and to recruit frontline services specifically for particular research purposes, without some of the conceptual  constraints that have limited research in the past.


Self report : opinion as data

Researchers will be familiar with the concept of a Likert scale - a way of treating seamless and fuzzy-edged phenomena as data, by 'quantising' the possible range into discrete steps. It is an approach with a long history, and a respectable position in social science.

The PIE Abacus asks for participants' opinions on a range of related issues, with four main levels. But even within each level, five more finely-tuned detailed 'positions' on the thread; and any opinions will 'snap' to one location or another, allowing two levels of precision.

Thus the PIE Abacus 'quantises' fluid and subjective (but collective) data with some precision.   By treating the evaluations of specific services, and specific teams, as data, we now have the possibility of gathering and pooling data on a linear measure scale, on a large scale.


Data in real world ('rich') context

Where previously quantitative research has tended to require a single, consistent intervention, and assumes the context to be constant (the 'ceteris paribus' principle)  the Abacus allows the possibility of exploring not just in a notional - but never achievable - uniform context, but with each intervention occurring and recorded in its full social and organisational context.

With a PIE Abacus licence, researchers will then be able to create active, participating information networks, and to recruit frontline services specifically for particular research purposes, without some of the conceptual and practical constraints that have limited research in the past. For a research project, it is also possible to introduce greater consistency in the reporting form participants - but only where it is genuinely useful.

NB: The Pizazz nevertheless still depends on self-assessment, however tempered by peer review; and so for some kinds of research, where there needs to be greater stress on ‘rater reliability’, it is recommended that more than one peer review (HERE) is undertaken, to help confirm the accuracy of initial assessment of the service. The software, with its greater capacity for sharing, may be helpful here.


'Re-claiming the middle ground'

In 'Re-claiming the middle ground' - a section from one of the videos illustrating the potential of the PIE Abacus (HERE) in the PIE leads' text and video briefings (HERE) -   we have argued that in providing context for discussions and practice share in any other other communities of practice,

".... the Pizazz, and especially the PIE Abacus, also creates opportunities for wider engaged research...... PIEs 2, and the Pizazz assessment framework now provide a reasonably coherent overview, and a single, consistent but multi-facetted and fully systemic account of the work of any participating services, with the scope for variations fairly clearly identified....."

At some point in the future, when the PIE Abacus is rather more widely used as an assessment and change management tool for services, we will want to bring together a colloquium of researchers, to explore how far if can be used in research.

Until that day, we would be keen to have more 'modest' discussions with perhaps a small handful of researchers. to begin to test these waters. For the first of these informal 'forum' discussion sessions see the Forums page : HERE

Further background reading/listening/viewing

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


PIElink pages

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

What are people saying about the PIE Abacus? : HERE

Costs and sustainability : HERE

Use and terms of use : HERE

Ambition and modesty : HERE

A single framework : HERE

Customising the PIE Abacus : HERE


Essential background for PIE leads

The PIE Abacus range - an introduction for PIE leads : HERE


For applications in particular settings, see:

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