June 2017


June’s newsletter is entirely devoted to two recently published documents, plus some supporting material, that between them sum up much of what the PIE concept – the practice, the attitude, the learning curve – has been all about. They are:

  • 'Developing best practice in Psychologically Informed Environments', by Coral Westaway and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire. HERE
  • 'A Whole New World: Funding and Commissioning in Complexity', by Anabel Davidson Knight and colleagues at Collaborate and Newcastle University HERE 

Scaffolding of hope
Coral Westaway’s paper 'Developing best practice in Psychologically Informed Environments', introduces what may well be a new term to the vocabulary of Psychologically Informed Environments.   At least, the word may be new, for those outside the world of education (where it is more familiar); but it gets to the heart of what homelessness services, and others, are doing.

"The relational nature of hope” is the wonderful phrase used in Westaway's (beautifully written) article from the Spring 2017 issue of Housing Care and Support, which is now in the Library HERE.  In this paper she describes and analyses, from interviews with people who have had multiple experiences of hostel living, what really mattered to them.

You can also listen to two short podcasts, exploring the term. The first, HERE, on 'The relational nature of hope; and scaffolding' is an excerpt from a recording of a conversation with Coral herself and her tutor, Lizette Nolte, over Coral’s research, the concept of scaffolding, and 'Exclusion-informed psychology' discusses the need for an approach in psychology research which is highly sensitive to the issues found amongst chronically excluded ‘research subjects”, HERE

Scaffolding for staff learning
Later in the conversation with Coral Westaway we turn to Coral’s supervisor and co-author, Lizette Nolte,  who suggests that ‘scaffolding’ also can describe the work of management, through supervision, organisation and staffing structures, in providing support for the workers in such services to manage the challenges of work that can be draining.  This too, she suggests, is a form of scaffolding, as managers help staff learn resilience and useful insights, in ‘holding the hope’.  You can hear 'Holding the hope: scaffolding for staff, and what we can learn here for PIEs development', HERE 

Two other podcasts and one article, featured here, also spell out how this can work in practice.
'Up mountains; recovery and manageable challenges' (an extract from a recent BBC Radio “Call you and yours’ programme) is HERE
'How The Big Issue works'; an interview with CEO Steve Robertson (one of our ‘Golden Oldies’) is HERE
'Manageable chunks of time', by Graham Gardner, is HERE

Re-scaffolding : contracts, complex  outcomes and evaluations
 We can then take the same extended concept of scaffolding, and apply it to the wider systemic frameworks that support or inhibit the development of services in meeting the challenges of complexity, responsiveness, and evaluation.

'A Whole New World: Funding and Commissioning in Complexity' is a major new paper from Collaborate, in conjunction with Newcastle University, which spells out brilliantly how we can, and why we must, go beyond the constraints of the established commissioning culture, to meet the needs of those with complex needs

In the name of “The New Public Management”, an approach has emerged in the UK over 20+ years in which the principal focus of government was on ‘delivery’ with a preference for time-limited contracts and narrowly defined outcomes; and a deeper culture of a pervasive mistrust of providers.   The full Collaborate report and analysis, complete with many quotes from local commissioners and providers, will paint a picture that many can recognise, both of what goes wrong, and what goes right. This report is in the Library, HERE

With the permission of the Collaborate/Newcastle team, we have produced a shorter version, with three particularly telling extracts, illustrating some of the key points.   Most useful – and highly recommended - is their chart (Appendix Two of the full report) with a comparison between approaches which illustrates the shift between the culture of NPM, and the new paradigm that they believe they see now emerging. This excerpt is HERE

Further explorations
For this un-doing of an established management and commissioning culture that no longer meets the needs of the time (if it ever did) and its replacement with a new approach, we will suggest a new term: re-scaffolding.    The term 're-scaffolding' deliberately aims to connect these two key facets of the PIE approach - connecting the user-facing work and the system-facing work of services

Because this concept touches on so many area of the PIE approach, we now have a whole page on Re-scaffolding on the PIElink’s “Questions’ area, HERE.  

This provides room for further elaboration of this useful and multi-faceted concept, including the roots of the idea in education, in social constructionist thinking and in complexity theory; and more practical applications.