The Open Referral Initiative’s next chapter starts now!
Open Referral has helped over a dozen community organizations find new ways to share resource directory information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. Our Human Services Data Specification provides a common ‘machine language’ that any technology can be programmed to understand. This work has spurred a proliferation of ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs) — which publish machine-readable resource data for third-parties to query in real-time, so they can repurpose it in new ways.
So our newest mission is to establish interoperability across this new wave of resource directory APIs, so that machine-readable data about human services can be easily accessed and shared with a common protocol — regardless of technology, jurisdiction, organizational status, etc.
Benetech was formed in 1989 and in the time since has developed a series of products that have improved lives and transformed industries around the world — starting with Bookshare (the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with blindness or dyslexia) and most recently featuring projects like Martus (for secure mobile document sharing among human rights organizations and activists).
Benetech focuses on doing “the right stuff right” — in other words, they choose work that can make a difference in people’s lives, and they build state-of-the-art technology that can scale. Open source development and social good are at the core of their principles.
Last year, Open Referral introduced Version 1.0 of the Human Services Data Specification — an open data exchange format designed to make it easier for different organizations to share standardized information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. Since then, a broad range of organizations have used the HSDS to make resource directory data easier to find and use in new ways in their communities.
We’ve received a lot of great feedback along the way, and we’re now ready to put this learning into action — by improving the HSDS itself, and making it easier for people and organizations to use.
This upgrade cycle has already begun: the Open Data Services Cooperative (read their introduction here) has already taken a series of steps to make it easier to understand, comment upon, and work with the HSDS.
Introducing our new documentation
First of all, Open Referral now has our very own Github organization, which hosts our data specification and associated materials. You can check us out here.Continue reading →
We’re pleased to announce that Open Referral is one of the first seven initiatives to be featured by the U.S. Data Federation, a new initiative from the federal General Services Administration, in association with Data.Gov, to promote the effective use of civic data through interoperability.
In its initial form, the U.S. Data Federation is simply highlighting a set of data standardization initiatives — such as the Voting Information Project, Open311, and the Building and Land Development Specification (BLDS), alongside Open Referral. These initiatives are diverse, yet they share common goals: to improve the accessibility and deliverability of critical public information (in these instances: data about elections, municipal operations, and permitting data, respectively) across jurisdictions and technically varying environments. Continue reading →
Civic Hall is a community center civic innovators located in the Flatiron District of New York City. It was started by the proprietors of the Personal Democracy Forum, which is a conference and a publication and community in which I’ve participated for more than a decade. …
The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (www.airs.org) is the trade association for ‘information and referral’ providers across North America — such as 2-1-1s, Area Agencies on Aging, and other organizations that help people connect to services that can meet their needs.
The AIRS Style Guide puts forth a formal set of recommended practices for collecting, structuring, and sharing resource directory information. The Style Guide’s objectives are to enhance the capacity for resource database administrators to produce concise, consistent, accurate directory information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. It’s used by individuals who are curating comprehensive and/or specialized resource databases at local, state and national levels.
The Style Guide is reviewed and updated every few years, to keep up with evolving conventions.
Previous versions of the Style Guide have included a copyright disclaimer that encouraged “AIRS members and related friends” to freely repurpose the content for their own uses. I’ve met many such “friends of AIRS” — and they are indeed a pretty friendly group! Ultimately, however, the AIRS mission is to help as many people as possible to manage this information as effectively as possible; in other words, AIRS wants this content to be easy for anyone to use, even folks with whom they are not yet technically “friends.”
Last October, I had the opportunity to visit London and spend some time learning about the UK social sector, at events such as the excellent NPC Ignites conference. On this trip, I was impressed by people’s sense of pride in the country’s long history of public service provision. But I also heard clear notes of anxiety about the present and future of the sector, given converging trends such as budget cuts and privatisation. Continue reading →
In 2014, we formed a table and conducted research. In 2015, we initiated action. In 2016, we’ll put these ideas to the test, and learn from our work. Based on your feedback so far, here’s what that might look like…
(This note is far from a final word on the matter — please share your own feedback in our community forum and/or directly via email. Thanks for your insights!)Continue reading →
In this post, we’ll discuss the different projects in which people are using these tools to find new ways to share and use information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need.Continue reading →