And now a word for our sponsors

And now a word for our sponsors

And the word is – none.

The PIElink has had no sponsors; no grant, no income.
No ties, no corporate loyalties or party line; complete freedom to 'tell it as we see it'.

And therefore, no future.  Not at least, if it carried on like this.

With the retirement – long threatened, long delayed (1) - of the editor, Robin, who turned75 this year, there would be no-one to replace him, or maintain this site.

Access to the PIElink could still remain free for all, and use of the Library for registered members, for at least another year or two. It's really not very expensive to do so. But the work of producing new material here would largely cease, with no-one doing that work; and no more forum discussions. Even the growth in numbers may stall with no-one to register and welcome new members.

We had to do something else.

There would be no future, without new - and younger - people coming forward to take it on; and ideally a small team, willing and able to do it, and to expand the activities beyond what one man could do, to meet the needs and to spread the word. For this there needs to be some form of income, to pay someone to produce it.

We do now have a group of enthusiastic volunteers, keen continue to the forums programme through 2023 and 2024 and beyond  But there is huge potential still un-tapped in a site and a community of practice such as this, going far beyond even what Robin, as just one individual, was able to manage.

But there is, in fact, now a source of income, a business model and even a fairly detailed business development plan that allows for the PIElink to continue to be free to all frontline staff (and users, managers. commissioners, researchers) and to employ a small staff team.

There is even the prospect, in the medium term, of making a significant profit that could then be ploughed back into the sector; and this income generation could even be greatly expanded, by developing a vocational training element, focussed on higher education.

So suddenly, after years running 'on a shoestring' there is the real possibility of a fully sustainable economic model for the PIElink, beyond Robin's retirement. If so, we can think of the last 6 years as Phase One - the 'one man band years'.

So here’s the plan for Phases Two and Three....


Phase Two: a community of practice for PIEs

So for Phase Two, we have now created a new Community Interest Company (HERE) to take over all (or at least some) of the production of the PIElink, in its current form and scope, aiming to maintain and consolidate the current site's remit.

The company will now receive 40% of the income from all sales of the PIE Abacus (HERE). This will provide us with a medium-term income generation stream. Yet it may be some time before the sales of the PIE Abacus will start to bring in some income to do that. In the short term, therefore, it would be very helpful to have some additional support to tide us over the transition.

This interim development support (in the 'scale up' stage ) may be in the form of philanthropic funding and investment, or via funded research and development (R&D) initiatives. There are also various other options in addition, such as sponsorship, secondment, and 'services in kind' (HERE).  We are certainly keen to partner with other agencies that see the continuing and growing PIElink as a valuable resource for their work and their staff and users (2).

But in fact, with sufficient income (HERE), over time we will able to expand in the provision of more inter-active sessions, and so to realise the ambition for the site to be self sufficient,  operating as a resource and a virtual home for a community-of practice (see Phase Three, below).


NB: For Phase Two and beyond, however formal or informal the co-operation of other agencies in the management structure, we find that an 'advisory' or 'reference group' is valuable. Over the course of 2022 we had therefore brought together a couple of dozen or so individuals willing to play an active part in this future; and this group now meets regularly, to advise on direction.

This helps us, as an 'editorial board', to broaden the base of our knowledge of the world of welfare and wellbeing; to feed in news and views and other practice content; and also offer feedback as to what they think their own staff need, to ensure the relevance of PIElink activity to current and emerging needs (HERE). It is this group primarily that is keeping the forums programme active (HERE); and a research special interest group is already meeting (HERE).


Phase Three : Vocational training on complex needs

 If Phase Two seems ambitious - and it certainly is pretty ambitious – it does at least seem reasonably achievable, both to consolidate in the short term, and to expand, in the medium term. But nevertheless it might also be still just a preliminary stage, in building up towards a still more long-term ambition: Phase Three.

There is no guarantee that this next phase will happen. But the possibility is real; and here it is:

The actual income we can anticipate from the PIE Abacus might remain quite modest; or it might eventually be quite significant. It's simply too soon to say.  But it does involve taking resources from the sector, even in the form of philanthropic investment for 'start up' costs. This is not unreasonable, given the charitable aims.

But in the longer run, we argue, the PIElink can remain free to all frontline staff, to provider agencies and also to users of these services, if sustainable income is drawn instead not primarily from the services/provider sector, but from higher education.

Here we have in mind those establishments – primarily but perhaps not exclusively the universities – that train the professional staff of the future in a knowledge base and a range of skills to equip them for work with people with complex needs. These institutions currently pay for specialist journals in their libraries, as a key part of what they can offer to students (and despite the very slow pace of publishing schedules.)

In this version of the longer term 'business plan', the site then pays for itself - and for its continuing expansion - through subscriptions from universities, giving their staff and students access to cutting edge information on areas of high priority concern for many professional disciplines.

This university-based training-to-qualification market is largely un-tapped; and yet it is huge - especially when you realise that these issues are arising in every country in the developed and developing world; and there are universities teaching and training in English world-wide, and not just in the English-speaking world, vast though that may be.

For researchers, for example, the PIElink can be seen as a new kind of academic publishing (HERE). When publishing new research, the opportunity to explain and explore the findings with an active, engaged community of staff - the real 'end users' of research - would be invaluable, and far more meaningful as 'impact' than the citations of other researchers.


NB: For all frontline staff, participation and access to all areas can then remain free. But this is not simple largesse. The active participation of an engaged community of practice is central to this new business model. It is access to these 'real time' discussions that gives the PIElink something to offer to the eduction sector, to 'add value' to their current 'offer' (HERE).


Phase Three + : Give something back

On this basis - and on this scale - Phase Three envisages the PIElink eventually making sufficient income from this source to be able to plough quite significant resources back into the sector, eg: in the form of grants for early stages research - and perhaps something like an awards ceremony, to promote and showcase creativity - continuing the idea of 'pizazz' (HERE) in a still more tangible form....

That’s a pretty ambitious scheme; and it almost certainly can’t work in the immediate future without one or more partner organisations with the right skillset already, to work with over a period, and to hand on all the current content, all Robin’s extensive contacts and knowledge.

(We have been exploring such possibilities, particular in funding bids for 'product development'; this provides the short-term income, and 'proof of market' established, with the PIE Abacus..)

Nevertheless, granted the level of investment needed to scale up to these new ‘markets’, and the potential income that might be drawn down, a more formal legal and constitutional framework might well be needed.


(1) NB: Robin still claims he is "not retiring, as such. Like the Cheshire cat, the grin will remain....."

(2) We might yet find an agency coming forward with some resources of its own that decides to take the PIEs project under its wing, as an incubator partner (HERE and HERE), and even commit some resource (HERE) to growing the site into more of its potential. But granted the potential for sustainable income in the medium term, there is also the potential, in a not-for-profit company, of leveraging in funds from philanthropic investment, to help with this initial stage. We have now created such a CIC (HERE) , as a vehicle for others to contribute to, in whatever way suits their own purposes.

(3) 'They"? You might think that one person could surely take over what one person (Robin) until now has done. But for the case for a minimum of three, probably six or more staff, you must wait for the discussions in the advisory group.

Further background reading/listening/viewing

And now a word for our sponsors :  HERE

PIEPR Community Interest Company Ltd : HERE

The option of an incubator agency : HERE

An advisory group ( or 'editorial board') for the PIElink : HERE 

Company partnerships for significant growth :  HERE



Income via the PIE Abacus


FAQs - Costs and sustainability: HERE

IP (Intellectual property) protection : HERE


Income via the vocational training model

Is this the future of vocational training? :  HERE

Is this the future of academic publishing : HERE

The homelessness sector as beneficiaries   :  HERE