Members' survey 2017: conclusions and developments

In place of a PIElink members' newsletter for September 2017, we issued instead another members' survey (the first being in 2015), arguing:

"A website that aims to promote reflective practice in services really does need to reflect on how it’s doing; and the best way is to ask."

The response rate was approx. 10% of the registered membership. Apparently that’s not bad, for a survey. But it does mean we must use some caution in treating these responses as necessarily reflecting the views of all. Notwithstanding the caveats over a small sample – and on the principle that the world is run by the people who turned up -  there are sufficient pointers in this survey to suggest directions for the future, both for the PIElink, and for the development of PIEs, as seen by the people doing it.

Some of the key areas to address, in a new page on survey conclusions on thePIElink itself (so that it can be updated, and have links to other areas) are:

Mapping and making contacts


25% of those responding said that would like to make contact with others with similar interests. 75% did not. This suggest that making contact is a minority interest – the others perhaps only wanting to use the library? – but a significant minority nevertheless. Several comments suggest that finding the site in itself made them feel less isolated and misunderstood.  Yet this clearly expressed wish from some also contrasts with the relatively small numbers in Question One on this issue of networking.

This suggests perhaps that there may be a particular sub-group within the overall membership, who really DO want to be more actively involved in on-line networking, whereas many others are happy enough just to browse the Library. It would appear that there is more interest in shared discussion and webinar-style talks on specific topics - with sufficient notice given, and a regular schedule published. This was a not a great success, when we first attempted it, 2 years ago; but then we did not have the newsletters, to convey the information and schedule. So maybe it is time to try again..

Member mapping

It has been pointed out that the member map does not really function. In fact, a high proportion of members, on registering, only give 'GB' as their location, reserving their profile statement for more identifying detail. But this renders the map useless, as it draws dat (literally, in this case" from the address field.

It is not clear, however, if new registering members really intended to anonymise so completely. Many are probably unaware of the option of giving an approximate but disguised location, sufficient to allow local members to make contact, on their own terms. 

Similarly, there is great variability in the extent to which new registering members use the keywords to identify their interests. Where they do not, we have no way for others to identify their interests, even where we have chased up some information with an email, at the point when they registered, as information that is only in email form cannot be searched.

Range, content and navigation issues.

The wide range of content, on all aspects of PIEs, and the range of styles, from published papers to video, is generally welcomed; though some would like more in their particular areas of interest.

Such a wide range nevertheless makes for real difficulties in structuring the site, as all these issues are interlinked; plus there is new material coming in constantly, to be added - but also to be accessed. Searching for items using keywords is never fully effective; the alternative – linking issues via threads, and additional pages - but this incremental growth can make the site confusing, and also every area then needs constant updating. But this is time consuming.

The site has benefitted enormously from technical support from Jamie Baker of Dark White, who helped with the first overhaul, the move to WordPress, the member map, registration screen, and the Library and search function. He has since given his time tirelessly and for free, after the initial funding was exhausted; and he is on hand whenever technical faults have appeared. The PIEs community owes a great debt of gratitude to Jamie.

The site has had three major overhauls in five years; and may be due another. especially with the new formulation - 'PIEs 2.0', which will requite extensive re-writes in many areas.

Advice and support

There is clearly a need for advice on particular developments; and there was a suggestion of a weekly session, 'clinic-style’, on difficulties people are having - either using live streaming, or on a phone-in basis. For general issues, a topic-focussed approach might be effective; though for more in-depth discussion, this might need to be confidential, and then comes closer perhaps to on-line mentoring. 

For both on-line and face-to-face training and consultancy, and mentoring, it may be useful to have a directory of available trainers and consultants; so this is one development that we can initiate fairly easily, and see if it is used.

News and newsletters.

There is a fairly general welcome for the monthly newsletters, with 40% reporting that they always or usually read them all; and 50% who skim for issues of relevance; both approaches seem entirely valid.

The News section, by contrast, is little used. This is in part because embers have not sent in their own news of their own events; and this becomes circular, self-fulfilling. A more assertive 'campaign' to get news sent in might be useful; but it may be that this "News' feature just doesn't fit the way things are actually developing.

Future developments

Perhaps the key issues running through all the responses is the way that the PIEs idea has taken root, particularly in homelessness; and yet still has enormous cope for further development, and for constant up-dating. Yet, with the exception of the technical in-put from Jamie Baker mentioned earlier, all if this website is the work of one man - the editor, Robin Johnson; and this is clearly a major constraint, limiting the development of the site.

Robin intends to step down in the summer of 2018, and would prefer to hand over the site as a going concern to some new editor and editorial team. Some options for this are explored in the PIElink page entitled 'And now a word for our sponsors', and several document that can be accessed from there ( site design issues again).






Progress updates

NB: This column is for progress updates on any developments suggested by the 2017 survey responses.

Funding and future plans

See 'And now a word for our sponsors' - and subsequent pages, such as the sustainability plans A, B & C - for developments in the business plan proposals.