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Spaces of opportunity 101

It will come as no real surprise that when we think of services as ‘psychologically informed environments’, the actual physical environment(s) of the service is one of the main features to consider.

But still, what exactly do we mean by that? What aspects of the environment do we mean to include here?

In the PIEs 2 framework, we have expanded considerable the range we need to consider, to go beyond simply considering the building: its layout, furnishings, signage, etc. We suggest it’s most useful to distinguish three main areas or aspects of the service environment:

  • The built environment itself, and what we had its ‘social spaces’ *.
  • The local surroundings and networks that any service works with, or within; the location, and how you may use that.
  • The referral routes and move-on options in which it operates, and the overall coherence (or lack of it) in this ‘services eco-system’: the systems and pathways.

Putting these three really rather different kinds or aspects of the environment together in the same cluster meant identifying the common thread – which is the opportunities that the service can find or can create, to engage the users and assist them in whatever progress they may make, or path they may take.

(Conversely, all these elements, if not well thought through, can limit or constrain the potential for users – and ‘put them in their place’. )

Note that here, even when talking of the built environment and the physical surroundings of a service, it is the ‘social spaces’ that can be created that give them their key meaning.

But it’s probably only when we look more closely at each of these three that we can fully see the value of widening the frame in this way, with three areas to consider. This is true especially of the systems and pathways, because it is the inclusion of this element that now allows services and their users to give and share their views on the wider eco-system of service, and any gaps and barriers.

This becomes particularly significant when we come to look at the possibilities for developing local audits (HERE); and even service user Abacuses (HERE).


A note on this clustering of practice issues

NB:  These ‘spaces of opportunity’ are clustered together, to cover all the 'pathways' that service users move through. But they are still only one cluster, out of the five major themes – the 'Big Five' – that between them make up and sum up a PIE; and we now recognise the importance of all these parts to make a whole, for a well-integrated and responsive service.

There is one other whole cluster of features that are equally central to the opportunities that a services creates; and these are the opportunities that are created within the rules and procedures of the services. There is a lot of overlap.

Yet these are so important – and sufficiently distinct – that in the end we had to give them a cluster of their own: the rules, roles and responsiveness of the service; which means, handily, The Three R’s.

For more on the thinking behind creating this cluster of issues as a central theme for PIEs, see: 'Making space', in the Discussions section : HERE.

For some advice on where the boundaries might lie between themes, see : My cat is a built environment? : HERE




Further background reading/listening/viewing

The other key features of the revised version are :

  • Psychological awareness HERE
  • Staff Training and Support HERE
  • Learning and Enquiry HERE
  • The Three Rs HERE


Other PIElink pages and materials

The built environment, adaptations and networks : HERE

Trauma-informed design & working with the built environment : HERE

Outreach, pathways, and environments without buildings : HERE

PIEs, scattered site and networked housing: HERE

Making space (in the 'Discussions' section) : HERE.

My cat is a built environment? : HERE


Library items

Car, Bus, Tram or Unicorn; why my car is a psychologically informed environmenHERE

A checklist of trauma-informed care principles in built environment design : HERE

Well-being by design - the questions you might ask : HERE

The Director of First Impressions`: (excerpt)

The characteristics of successful supported housing programmes: ‘Single site’ Housing First in Finland:  HERE

Autism and safety in the environment of homelessness (excerpt)


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