DC Open211: the Plan

Background on the DC Open211 Pilot project:

The District of Columbia is somewhat unique in the U.S., as a major metropolitan area with no prominent provider of ‘information and referral’ services.

The city government does operate a 2-1-1 system for community resource referral, but it’s a subprogram of DC’s 3-1-1 system, and the government has faced serious challenges in maintaining the investment and engagement necessary to provide quality data and services.

However, several community-based institutions produce comprehensive resource directories of their own. This is costly to them, and yields a directories that only they can use. We’re going to change that.

Our project has convened government, community-based organizations, software vendors, and civic hackers together in a multi-stakeholder initiative that will yield standardized, open directory data on all services in DC.

The Roadmap

This pilot (known as DC Open211) currently has three near-term objectives:
1) Support DC government in its commitment to provide data on all city services in Open Referral format
2) Transform Bread for the City’s community resource directory into the Ohana platform, and develop BFC’s ability to read/write this data from within its Salesforce system
3) Formalize DC Open211 ‘leadership table,’ with representation from key institutions.

By the end of the year, we expect to:
1) Support DC211’s vendor iCarol in developing an OpenReferral-compatible API. This API will make available standardized data about all city services.
2) Integrate at least one other community-based organization into BFC-anchored Ohana platform.
3) Negotiate data sharing agreement with at least one referral software vendor, which will use this data, improve and expand it, and share the output.
4) Plan for hosting a major summit with stakeholders from across the country, at which v1.0 of the Open Referral model will be deliberated upon and set.

By next year, we expect to:
1) Automate data exchange between DC211 and DC’s Ohana.
2) Integrate 3-5 additional community organizations into Ohana platform.
3) Demonstrate accessibility of standardized data in improved Google searches.
4) Support a DC government policy mandate requiring data from city-contracted services and city agency-produced directories.

Why it will work:

Data maintenance is the big challenge. Yet in a system that can ‘learn’ from user input, the quality of data will improve with use. By 1) building on the twin pillars of the DC government service directory and a trusted community organization’s resource directory, 2) aligning these data sets around a standard that is interoperable with both existing 2-1-1 systems and also the civic services schema proposed by Google to the W3C, and 3) organizing a community of invested stakeholders to take ownership over this process, we’ll meet this challenge.

Please support our work! Make a donation to Bread for the City (our fiscal sponsor) ->