Technology Overview

The Open Referral Initiative is developing an ecosystem of free, open source tools that can help communities produce, share and use community resource directory data.

icon_19378The Human Service Data Specification (HSDS): AKA ‘the Open Referral format,’ the HSDS is a data interchange format that enables resource directory data to be published in bulk for use by many systems. HSDS provides a common vocabulary for information about services, the organizations that provide them, and the locations where they can be accessed. HSDS was initially drafted by Sophia Parafina, and is now under the stewardship of the Open Data Services Cooperative. It is currently at v1.1, with testing underway in various pilot projects; we welcome feedback to set our agenda for future upgrades toward v2.0. [Documentation site; Frequently Asked Questions. Github repo;]

Robot by Simon Child at the Noun Project - Human Service Data API (HSDA): The Human Service Data API suite consist of machine-readable protocols for managing resource directory data. Using the HSDA OpenAPI specifications, any resource directory database can be transformed into an interoperable open platform. [Human Service Data API repo; live documentation site (redeployable as a developer portal)]

Wrench by P.J. Onori at the Noun Project - Validator: developed by volunteer Chris Spiliotopoulos (@spilio) to check the validity of resource data in accordance with the Human Service Data Specification. [Github repo]

HSDS Transformer: developed by Shelby Switzer (@switzersc), the HSDS transformation tool helps restructure datasets with information about organizations, services, and locations into our standardized open data format. [Github repo]


Front-end Search Interfaces:

Link-SF: Built by Zendesk in San Francisco, and redeployable as open source software, Link is a mobile-friendly front-end resource browsing tool that works with the Human Service Data API protocols and has been redeployed in multiple communities. [blog post; Open Referral fork of Link]

Ohana Web Search: As part of Code for America’s Ohana API package, Ohana Web Search is a front-end interface that displays content via the Ohana API. The interface is purposefully simple (“I need…”), and the application is easy to deploy and free to use and modify. [See Github repo; live deployment in San Mateo County.]

HelpSteps: Built by the Boston Children’s Hospital, Helpsteps is an open source mobile app that works with the Open Referral format. [blog post; Github repo]

Created by Alban Champliau at the Noun Project - The Toolkit – In the course of initial testing and evaluation, our lead stakeholders have identified the need for tools that can enable collaborative production and validation of resource data. (Including the ability to: synthesize data from multiple sources of varying trustworthiness; receive and validate user-submitted updates; resolve and sync conflicting records through a workflow process; track history and source of edits, and enable user discussion about fields and records; assign varying levels of editing ability to users; etc.) We’re currently identifying opportunities to prototype these features. Please reach out with questions or suggestions. [Read more.]

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Image credit: Icons from Robot by Simon Child; Wrench by P.J. Onori; Tools by Alban Champliau

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