Strategic Overview

StrategyThe problem

Every community faces a similar challenge: there are many different kinds of health, human, and social services that are available to people in need, yet no one way that information about them is produced and shared. Instead, many organizations collect and structure community resource directory data in different ways — yielding redundant, fragmented silos.

Human service providers are typically not paid by their clients – nor are they typically funded on a per-client basis, at least not enough to compensate for their costs – so they lack strong incentives to spend time updating all these difference directories. As a result, even amid many well-intentioned efforts to build new ‘centralized’ resource directories, we end up with more and more sources of less and less reliable information.

So it remains hard to ‘see’ the safety net. Many people never discover services that could help improve their lives. Service providers spend precious time verifying data rather than helping people. And without access to this information, decision-makers struggle to evaluate community health and program effectiveness. This yields underperforming systems that fail people and communities in tragic ways.

The opportunity

The Open Referral Initiative has taken a new approach to this old problem: by enabling interoperability among resource directory information systems, and facilitating cooperation among them.

We’ve developed a data exchange format that has been approved by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems as an industry standard for resource directory interoperability. Now all community resource information systems can ‘speak’ a common language, enabling this critical public information to be published once and accessed simultaneously in many ways. This is how the internet became the World Wide Web – and we’re taking the same approach to our safety net.

The plan

We are galvanizing collective action by 1) stewarding the Human Services Data Specifications (aka ‘the Open Referral format’) as standardized protocols for resource directory data exchange, while 2) supporting locally-led pilots in which various institutional stakeholders are using these standards to exchange open data and develop open platforms.

HSDS is designed to be interoperable with existing and emerging standards; it will be improved and validated through iterative feedback from our pilots. See Technology Overview for more.

Anticipated benefits

  • Decreased costs of data production.
  • Improved quality of data.
  • Improved access to data through web search and an ecosystem of tools and applications.
  • Improved service delivery.
  • Better information for policy-making and resource allocation.
  • Healthier people and more resilient communities.

Read more in our Documentation.

Join our community forum here.

2 thoughts on “Strategic Overview

  1. The “in our documentation” link on the /strategic-overview page 404s, doesn’t properly link to the documentation page

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