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Developing a PIE Language at The Connection at St Martin’s in the Field

Developing a PIE Language at The Connection at St Martin’s in the Field

Developing a PIE Language at The Connection at St Martin’s in the Field

Monday, July 8, 2019

Rosie Allen-Jones, Client Involvement Coordinator at the Connection at St Martin's, talks to us about how Connection at St Martin’s are exploring the language of PIE (Psychologically Informed Environments).

On being tasked with carrying out a ‘PIE review’ of the three biggest day centres in Westminster (The Connection at St Martin’s in the Field, The Passage and Seymour Place, West London Mission) the first question we asked was ‘how are we going to get clients involved?’. We were faced with a conundrum: ‘PIE’ is a framework designed to enable professionals and academics to describe the homelessness sector’s work, and is not necessarily written for clients, yet conducting a review of services without the main beneficiaries taking part would undoubtedly be a pointless task. The more we thought about it, however, the more we realised that the language of PIE could be just as alienating to staff as it might be to clients. Staff may have heard the acronym a million times and be familiar with the words themselves but discovering what the language of PIE actually means to staff would involve the same approach as it would for any individual. It was clear that to involve clients, staff and volunteers in the review we would need to engage them all in the same process. Hence, developing a shared language to describe the work we do, the outcomes we’re aiming for and the approaches we take to achieve them, would play a key role in enabling staff, clients and volunteers to work together in assessing ‘How much of a PIE we really are’.

With the publication of the updated PIE framework, September 2018 felt like a good time to start talking about the revised PIE principles and involve clients, volunteers and staff in the conversation. As a first step we took the new PIE framework and broke it down into a (very) long series of questions which might evidence the different elements of a PIE. ‘Do staff ask clients about how they are feeling?’, for example, or ‘What training have staff received and when?’ and ‘Are staff and clients aware of how they are expected to behave?’. Alongside this process we ran a series of workshops with an open invite to all staff, clients and volunteers of the three day centres to come and discuss PIE and the meaning associated with many of the words used in the framework. The workshops were promoted across the three day centres as an opportunity to talk about making improvements to our services and how we can account for the thoughts, feelings and experiences of everyone that comes in to our buildings. Through constantly reviewing the language we were using during the sessions we began to develop a shared understanding of the ‘PIE words’ and their different associations. From words like thought through to psychological, we learnt that words can carry significance in very different ways for every individual. Words associated to psychological for example ranged from ‘clinical’ or ‘thinking’ to ‘mad’ and ‘scary’ many also stated ‘I don’t know what that means’. The conversations were rife with personal perspectives and storytelling - all of which fed in to the overall design of the research tools, training and methodology for the upcoming PIE review.

Over the last 4 months we have been carrying out the PIE review at The Connection at St Martin’s in the Field. The review has involved recruiting and training a research team of committed staff, clients and volunteers who have conducted a series of focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and observations with staff and clients; the design of which were all informed by language used in the workshops. We are currently in the process of coding the wonderfully rich data we have collected and aim to complete the report towards the end of Autumn. Watch this space!

Photo Credit: Chris Andrew / @chrisandrew02 / www.chrisandrewcartoons.co.uk

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