‘What role can Technology have within a PIE?’
15.11.19: Following on from last week’s blog about partnerships, relationships and communication in a Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE), this week I have been further thinking about relationships but from a more ‘strategic’ perspective. When I joined Centrepoint earlier this year, my role as PIE Lead was positioned within the Strategy and Performance Directorate. Although the first time I have not been within a Psychology Department in my career, this has been useful as it has enabled me to consider how PIE approaches can be realised across the whole organisation, rather than just focusing on PIE within a more clinical or housing/support area. To some degree, PIE originally developed from idea of placing clinical psychologists directly into hostels or housing projects (Keats et al, 2012: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/340022/1/Good%2520practice%2520guide%2520-%2520%2520Psychologically%2520informed%2520services%2520for%2520homeless%2520people%2520.pdf), and utilising their skills to work on a ‘micro’ level with homeless clients to improve their outcomes. However, my role is more ‘macro’ within Centrepoint, as I am focused on thinking about the psychological implications across the wider organisation. The aim is that Centrepoint as a whole will be PIE, not just what we directly deliver in services for homeless young people, and therefore it is useful to be in a team that leads on strategic and technological developments within the organisation.
One activity this week that I engaged in to see this ‘bigger picture’ was part of the Centrepoint ‘Personal Leadership Journey’ training. The aim was to increase ‘Business Empathy’, wherein different staff operating in different roles / teams across the organisation (e.g. Fundraising, Events, Finance, HR, Helpline, Housing & Support, Education & Training, Health) reflected on their roles within the wider organisation and shared this with each other. It was interesting to note that although some staff are ‘one step removed’ from direct contact with homeless young people, we all occupy critical pieces in the puzzle as part of a shared organisational goal to get the best outcomes for the homeless young people we work with (i.e. a ‘home and a job’). It also highlighted to me the importance of collaboration and the working together of all the constitute parts, in order to achieve an aim greater than what each part alone could achieve (in Gestalt psychology terms; ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’).
I also had the pleasure of attending the Strategy and Performance Directorate away day this week, held at Microsoft Offices in Reading. Although, as anyone who knows me personally will attest to(!), I am not the most ‘technologically minded’ individual (and still own a paper diary!), I found this day fascinating and learnt so much about how potential new technologies could support the development of a PIE. An important part of a PIE is research and evaluation; as Keats et al (2012) argue ‘Evaluation of outcomes is crucial in the development of psychologically informed services. Evaluations are crucial because they are a cornerstone of reflective practice, which in turn is a cornerstone of psychologically informed environments. If you do not know what impact what you do or say is having, how can you know whether it is positive and how can you improve it? (p.26).
Consequently, it will be key for us as an organisation to use our data positively to benefit our work to #endyouthhomelessnses and to explore appropriate technology advances or platforms that allow us to do this process easily and effectively. This can be ‘direct’; such as evaluating what we are doing on the ‘frontline’ to ensure that it ‘works’ with young people, and therefore drive up the quality of our service delivery to improve outcomes. It will therefore be important that staff know why we are collecting data (and thereby motivating them to collect it accurately), and that we work with our service managers to understand what information/data they need easy access to in order to make evidence based decisions that assist them in their roles. However, it can also be ‘indirect’; such as utilising our data (and that of our partners) on homeless young people (e.g. Centrepoint (and partners) Youth Homeless Databank: https://www.yhdatabank.com/) to provide evidence to social policy makers or local commissioners of services, as well as internally ensuring we maximise our fundraising revenues in order to deliver our frontline services through effective data driven targeting and marketing.
It was also interesting to consider how technology can improve communication and collaboration, and building relationships within a PIE. Relationships are something that I have discussed previously in these blogs as Keats et al (2012) argue that; ‘a focus on managing relationships is perhaps at the heart of what makes a psychologically informed environment different’ (p.24). However, whilst we are human beings and there will always be a role for ‘face to face’ interaction to build relationships and support each other, sometimes physically being present in the same room isn’t always possible as Centrepoint is a large national charity with staff working across London and the North of England. Consequently, perhaps technology can assist with building relationships in these circumstances, and improving our communication with each other. For example, I have learnt this week that there are new technology options for collaborative working being developed (e.g. team desktop interfaces, video conferencing options, opportunities for ‘virtual support’ and working together online on documents in real time etc.), and I look forward to further technology developments in this area.
Centrepoint has been in an existence as a charity for 50 years now, developing from humble beginnings at in a Church basement in Soho in 1969, to the leading charity addressing Youth Homelessness in the UK. This was recognised this week at our 50th Anniversary Gala at the Camden Roundhouse in London, attended by our patron; HRH Duke Of Cambridge (https://twitter.com/centrepointuk/status/1194986465245192193), who also opened a new housing project for young people who have apprenticeships (c.f. https://news.sky.com/story/prince-william-marks-50th-anniversary-of-centrepoint-homeless-charity-11860667). Over the past 50 years, Centrepoint has had to adapt our approach to ensure we meet the needs of the homeless young people that need to access our services, and to operate successfully within the changing landscape of British society. This week has enabled me to reflect on the potential role that advances in technology, coupled with our PIE approach, can play in our future adaptations in order to work towards our aim to #endyouthhomelessness…