Our Values and Principles

The Open Referral Initiative is guided by a set of values (the good things we aim to achieve) and principles (the ways we work together). Taken as a whole, these establish a set of boundaries within which our community can thrive – guiding our analysis, decision-making, evaluation, and so on. These values and principles have been articulated through years of dialogue among stakeholders across our network. We welcome any interested participant into our network under the assumption that they abide by these statements.

Values: what we work for

Accessibility: we help stakeholders ensure that resource directory data is as accessible as possible, through any information channel that might meet the needs of our community’s members.

Interoperability: we seek to ensure that resource directory data can be used in any technology that might usefully serve help-seekers, help providers, analysts, and any civic leaders.

Reliability: we promote systems that are reliable – in accuracy of information, quality of service, and trustworthiness of relationships.

Sustainability: we seek to ensure that our stakeholders’ operations can be sustained through fair and equitable arrangements.

Principles: how we work together

The Open Referral community is open to all who wish to work towards a future of open, interoperable, reliable, and sustainable community resource directory data — and who abide by the following principles:

Open source. Open Referral works in the open. We promote open data, we develop open source technology, and we share knowledge about all of the above. We specify open source licenses (such as Creative Commons By-Attribution Share-Alike) for code, content, and collateral produced through our projects. We also strive to be open in our processes — including contracting and fundraising — to whatever degree is possible. Business intelligence specific to our contracted partners may remain private or clearly attributed. That said, we publicly document our decision-making processes and outputs to whatever degree is appropriate.

Users’ prerogatives. Open Referral prioritizes the interests of people in need, and the people who serve them. We focus on the interests of people in need — and the people who help them — as the primary lens through which we design sustainable business models. Throughout our pilot projects, we engage with such stakeholders to ensure that their priorities and realities are taken into account. Here is our summary of our primary user types and their respective needs: Personas and User Stories.

Test assumptions. Open Referral evolves by learning, doing, and iterating. This is a complex, long-term undertaking that we tackle step-by-step. We will keep a running list of possible actions, and regularly revisit this list at agreed-upon intervals to assess progress, calibrate priorities, and make specific commitments for the coming cycle(s). In this manner, we aim to deliver something of tangible value at regular increments, rather than trying to build everything in one fell swoop. We make our assumptions explicit in order to test them. Ultimately, our mission is to produce learning, even more than code and data.

Be kind. Open Referral premises all relationships upon dignity and mutual respect. The application of this principle ranges from our commonplace expectations of kindness and good faith, all the way to our commitment to shared agency in decision-making. If someone draws attention to a problem, they should also be ready to help identify and effect a solution. If trust is violated and not repaired, we reserve the right to exclude parties from the forum and associated activities.