What is an environment?

What is an environment?

It is actually almost impossible to define an environment, let alone to make a list of them.  That’s because ‘the environment’ simply means ‘whatever is all around whatever it is that you are primarily interested in’.

All environments therefore are unique. But some – such as a dessert, a sea shore, an inner city – have enough in common with each other that we can attempt to identify the key features of each type; and find a language to describe then.

That’s all we are doing, with the PIEs 2 framework – finding a language to help to identify the key features. Even so, you will have to adapt and adjust the language for each particular setting.


What is more, there are environments within environments. Like a rock pool on a sea shore in the winter in the northern hemisphere, every environment is nested inside another, wider environment.

In the case of complex needs services, every service is nested inside some agency, that provides it. Each agency will be one among many all operating in the same area. Each network will be managed by some kind of planning and co-ordinating body, usually the local authority. Each local authority works within the framework of legislation and funding of the higher authority, usually the government. Even the government works with in an environment of policies and values, a mindset that it shares with the local population.

The PIEs 2.0 framework attempted to find a common language that all these environments can use. It seems to be reasonably successful; but it’s a lot to try to do, and a lot will depend on how far you can interpret it all usefully, in the context of your own work.


Meanwhile, all environments are where they are not just in space, but in time. Like a rock pool on a sea shore in the winter in the northern hemisphere, in an era of global warming, environments will change.  That’s why working as a PIE means constantly asking: so where are we now?

This is why every environment is unique; and as a PIE, you have to explore yours – and that of your service users – for yourself. You can use the language and the tools that we have developed here; but the way you use them has to be your own.

(That’s also one of the reasons it’s simply not possible to evaluate the benefits - or measure the ‘improved outcomes’ - from working ‘as a PIE’. What you may get from it depends entirely on what you do with it.)



' .... the biscuits on the table are a crucial part of this...'

(Quotation from Ger Spillane's presentation on PIEs at the FEANTSA webinar, 'Slices of PIE'. For the full context, see : Housing First and PIEs in Europe : HERE.)


What psychology? : HERE

Case studies and practice examples : HERE

Settings : HERE

The Umwelt : HERE

The built environment : HERE

The built environment and adaptations : HERE

Networks and surroundings : HERE

Pathways, systems and system coherence : HERE


Other working environments

  • Trauma-informed design (buildings) : HERE
  • ‘Greencare’ : HERE
  • Sport, arts and activity-based projects : HERE
  • Outreach and services without buildings : HERE
  • Clubhouses, cores and campus models : HERE
  • A PIE of pathways : HERE
  • Whole systems as PIEs : HERE


Thought models - environments for new ideas and critical thinking

  • Open Dialogue
  • Person-centred research :
  • Human Learning Systems
  • Enabling Help :  HERE
  • The Umwelt : HERE