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 carries on like this.

With the retirement – long threatened, long delayed* - of the editor, Robin, who turned 70 last year, there will be no-one to replace him, or maintain this site. Access to the PIElink can remain free for all registered members, for at least another year or two. But the work of producing new material will simply cease, if there is no-one doing that work.

Not at least, without either someone else – or some organisation -  coming forward to take it on; and for that there needs to be EITHER someone willing and able to do it for free, OR some form of income, to pay someone – and/or some organisation - to produce it.

But there is, in fact, a business model and a business plan that allows for the PIElink to continue to be free to all frontline staff (and users) and to employ a small staff team; even, conceivably, to make a profit, that could then be ploughed back into the sector.

So, here’s the plan.


Plan A: a community of practice for PIEs

In the short term, we anticipate that the development of the PIE Abacus software (HERE) may well bring in sufficient income to allow a small staff team to continue to manage and even extend the current PIElink range of activities. This would allow us to keep the PIElink and all its material free to use to all staff, volunteers etc working in the related fields.

So in Plan A, someone - a person or an agency, or a group - agrees to take over the production of the PIElink, in its current form and scope, aiming to use the PIE Abacus income to maintain and consolidate the current site's remit. With sufficient income (HERE) we may be to expand in the provision of more inter-active session, to realise the ambition for the site to operate as a resource and a virtual home for a community-of practice.

There are several ways this could happen.

It is hard to imagine any one individual with the time and range to take this on, single-handed, with no secure income in the short term (as Robin had done). But it could be one agency coming forward with some resources of its own that decides to take on the PIEs project and the PIElink, and commit some resource to growing the site into more of its potential.

Alternatively, there could be several agencies co-operating, quite informally, for example as an advisory group, supporting a single agency. (It would even be possible to work together more formally or even more formally, as a consortium. This is a more complex arrangement, however; a single agency, as lead agency in an informal partnership, is more flexible. Flexibility is valuable, at this stage.)

If the lead agency were itself a no-for-profit company – or if other members of any consortium arrangement were – there would then be possible to attract some investment, perhaps from philanthropy capital, for early start-up costs ( in staff time)

For Plan A, however formal or informal the co-operation of other agencies, an editorial board or steering group would be useful, to feed in news and views, and other practice content; and also offer feedback as to what they think their staff need, to ensure the relevance of PIEs activity to current and emerging needs.


Plan B: Vocational training on complex needs

 If Plan A seems ambitious - and it is certainly pretty ambitious – it does at least seem reasonably achievable, in the short term. But it also can be nevertheless just a preliminary stage, in building up towards a still more long-term ambition - Plan B.

The actual income we can anticipate from the PIE Abacus might be quite modest; or it might be quite significant; it's simply too soon to say.  But it does involve taking resources from the sector, even n the form of philanthropic investment, at least 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 to users of these services, if subscription income is drawn instead not from the homelessness sector, but from the education sector, and 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.

In this version of the longer term 'business plan', the PIElink (probably re-branded?) is seen as a new kind of academic publishing for professional training. For all frontline staff, participation and access to all areas remains free. But it then pays for itself - for its expansion - through subscriptions from universities, paying for their staff and students to have access to cutting edge information on a high priority concerns for many professional disciplines  (just as they pay, currently, for specialist journals in their libraries, despite the very slow pace of publishing schedules) .

The university-based training-to-qualification market is un-tapped; and 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.

On this basis - and on this scale - Plan B envisages the PIElink eventually making sufficient income from this source to be able to plough significant resources back into the sector, eg: in the form of grants for early stages research - and perhaps something 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 a partner organisation 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; but until the short-term income, and 'proof of market' is established, with the PIE Abacus, we cannot go much further..)


Company structure?

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

One option we had explored was therefore to create a company, to 'own' the PIElink, along with the intellectual property of the PIEs 2.0 and the Pizazz.

This could even be a shareholder company, with 50% (initially*) of the shares in the company  distributed, for free, to agencies currently active in the homelessness and complex needs field. Hence, to encourage this, the proposal was to gift  ie: to give, outright) half of the shares in a newly-formed company - the PIEs Promotion Company Ltd, which will then own and run the PIElink - to a range of organisations in the homelessness and exclusion health sectors, all not-for-profit social enterprises.

Thus they become beneficiaries, if the project makes income; but also, as shareholders, they can have a say in how any profit is distributed, or ploughed back. They thus have a double vested interest in the success of the project, and in ensuring good quality, relevant content.

However, for the short term, we have created another company, PIRAN limited, with an explicit brief to re-invest income  - in the short term simply from the PIE Abacus ((HERE)

Creating PIRAN

An imaginative company structure, to incentivise engagement from some of the major players and provider agencies, may yet have some place. But a more obvious structure would be that of the not-for-profit enterprise, with an assets lock.

This is the course of action currently proposed, via the creation of a holding company, PIRAN, or the PIEs 'Income Re-Investment and Networking' Company Ltd.  PIRAN comes into existence, for convenience, flexibility and speed, as a limited company, with the PIElink founder and editor, Robin Johnson as the company director.  For the plans to convert to not-for-profit status, see the pages on this site HERE

As with Plan A, such a not-for-profit project would benefit from some kind of editorial board, to maintain the momentum with new, cutting edge analysis, inspirational accounts and teaching material. This is what we trust the PIE Abacus income will arrange.

And so, for the present, this is the direction we have chosen.


Plan C

Otherwise, without any source of income, or a sufficient investment of funds to keep it going, with no funds to pay the basic costs of running a website (approx £300 pa), after perhaps a year or two, the PIElink website will simply close down.

But for those interested to hear how the first two options could work in more detail, see the panels (as always) on the right.....

  • NB: Robin claims he is "not retiring, as such. Like the Cheshire cat, the grin will remain....."
  • The remaining shares would be retained, to ensure the editorial mission of the project; or some could be offered as an equity stake for a commercial company in a position to invest, such as an existing publisher, as a business partner. 

Further background reading/listening/viewing

Bear with us; we are still up-dating and adding text to this section...


Immediate plans

The PIElink sustainability plans A,B & C, in a nutshell. (2019 update)

A briefing on future options for the PIElink: activities, ambitions, sequences, time commitment and ‘products’ 

Beyond the outline (company structures) 


Background thinking

Is this the future of academic publishing? HERE

Is this the future of vocational training? : HERE

ow audio-visuals can add value to academic publishing   :  HERE

The homelessness sector as beneficiariesHERE

Company structures, shareholders and an editorial advisory board :  HERE