Sunlight Foundation on local governments and the opening of social service data

Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services has long been known as one of the most innovative government agencies of its kind: their data infrastructure famously enables sharing of client information across a complex array of programs and powers analytic capabilities. As Ian Mavero started his role as their Chief Technology Officer, he took on the department’s next strategic priority: further improving the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) flow of information about, well, human services.

“When it comes to information about residents — and activities of our programs — our data infrastructure is really impressive,” says Ian Mavero. “When it comes to information about our services, we have a single database that contains information about all of the providers with whom we contract and their associated facilities and services… But we commonly hear that our community partners and clients themselves, desire better access to information about these services. And we agree: community mental health specialists should have access to the same information about available services as our own agency’s case workers do.”

In order to share information about services more broadly and effectively, Mavero realized that Allegheny DHS’s IT would need to take another step forward — not with fancy new technology, just with more deliberate practices of structuring and sharing this existing data.

“We needed a standardized way to structure this directory information in a way that could enable it to be shared across all offices, with our contracted partners, and even with the public at large.” Continue reading

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Link2Feed leveraging Open Referral to provide resource directory information to food pantries

This post is by Emily Branton, President of Link2Feed. Welcome, Emily!

 

Link2Feed believes that food pantries don’t just play a key role in mitigating hunger – they also a catalyst for change for broader poverty issues.

Our client-intake software and reporting tool is used by food banks and other non-profits across North America to enable them to gather data that can drive organizational strategy and increase the impact of their services.

 

The Need for Change: Connecting Food Support With Additional Services

At Link2Feed, we have heard consistently how challenging it was to find and facilitate referrals to pantry clients.

One of our partners, Feed Ontario (formerly the Ontario Association of Food Banks), saw an opportunity to expand the reach and impact of their 1,200 member food banks and hunger-relief organizations, by making resource directory data directly available within the Link2Feed system, so that food bank staff and volunteers can more effectively refer clients to other services.

This summer, Link2Feed and Feed Ontario are piloting a new referral method that uses the Open Referral standard to receive resource data from Ontario 211. Continue reading

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New research finds urgent needs for interoperability across health, human, and social service sectors

It often doesn’t matter how clever or well-designed a new technology is – if it can’t easily work with other technologies (and other organizations and people) then it may not accomplish much good at all.

In the last month, three significant reports have underscored this reality – one each from the US (produced by the Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network), Canada (produced by MaRS Discovery District), and the UK (produced by Snook).

These reports compile a considerable amount of research from across the field of public informatics in general, and community resource information and referral systems in particular. Each assesses a broad swath of organizations and technologies that are trying to innovate in ways that help people in need – yet often struggling to realize their intended potential.

Taken together, this set of research and analysis makes an urgent case that governments, philanthropies, and civil society organizations should prioritize interoperability as a core value of their investment strategies, through promotion of open data standards in general – and Open Referral in particular.

Let’s take a look!

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WellSky strengthens human service sector interoperability by supporting Open Referral

[Gabe Cate is VP of Business Development at WellSky. This is reposted from WellSky’s blog. Welcome, Gabe!]

At WellSky, we envision a future of truly interoperable health and community care. We envision a future where care providers can seamlessly ensure safer, more efficient care transitions for people across care settings — no matter when, where, and how they need care. That means empowering whole-person care that addresses each person’s unique health and socioeconomic circumstances. To achieve this future, we first need interconnected, intelligent technology, and WellSky is leading this movement.

We’re excited to announce that WellSky is furthering interoperability by supporting the emerging Human Service Data Specification (HSDS) for Information and Referral (I&R) providers — including 2-1-1s, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), crisis lines, and more. Continue reading

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Introducing Arrival Advisor, from PeaceGeeks

[This post is from Grady Mitchell for PeaceGeeks. Welcome, Grady!]

PeaceGeeks logoPeaceGeeks is a nonprofit organization based in Vancouver that builds digital tools to empower communities in the pursuit of peace.

Our newest project, Arrival Advisor, is dedicated to making it easier for newcomers to Canada to find and access the services they need to build a new life here in British Columbia.

Arrival Advisor was funded by the Google.org Impact Challenge Canada program. This project was developed in partnership with Metro Vancouver Local Immigration Partnerships, along with British Columbia’s 2-1-1 program. Affinity Bridge supported our technical development.

And Open Referral played a key role in Arrival Advisor’s design and implementation.

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Open Referral Powers Two New Tools for Minnesotans Seeking Legal Aid

Minnesota’s Legal Services State Support project seeks to improve access to justice for all Minnesotans. An integral part of “State Support’s” work is managing LawHelpMN.org, a comprehensive website that provides free information about legal resources and services.

Throughout 2018, State Support has worked to create a centralized portal of legal services available in Minnesota– the Legal Organizations Online Network (LOON) – and a redesign for the LawHelpMN.org website. Both LOON, which launched in October 2018, and the redesigned LawHelpMN, which will launch in early 2019, leverage Open Referral’s data standards to ensure clients receive more accurate information about the legal resources that are available to help them. Continue reading

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The Florida Legal Aid Resource Federation: Pilot Report

After two years of development, we’re pleased to share details of our successful Florida Legal Aid Resource Federation pilot!

Initiated in 2016 (see our original post here) and completed in 2018, with support from the Legal Services Corporation and the Florida Bar Foundation, the Florida Legal Aid Resource Federation (FLARF) was a complex project with a simple goal:

We aimed to ensure that accurate information about Florida’s legal aid providers can be reliably updated by those providers in one place – one official record! – and subsequently shared as standardized, canonical open data. (This pilot goal was directly in the service of our ultimate goal: to ensure that this information can be found and used in any given channel through which someone might look for it.)

The pilot phase of this project has concluded successfully! 

The FLARF pilot yielded a functioning ‘beta’ system through which resource data can be shared among every organization that receives grants from the project’s primary funders. (This includes about 90% of the legal aid resources in the state!) This information is now accessible to each legal aid provider in Florida within their own case management system – improving their ability to refer clients from one legal aid provider to another.

We’re now beginning work on additional implementations that will make this data accessible through more and more channels (such as through integration with resource referral call centers, medical-legal partnership programs, even just better search results in Google, etc).

Read our complete final report on this project here. Continue reading

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