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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AIRS Recommends Open Referral for Resource Database Interoperability

On behalf of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), I am pleased to announce that the AIRS Board has moved to promote the adoption Open Referral’s Human Service Data Specification and API protocols as methods of establishing interoperability among resource databases and associated technologies.

Our aim is to create secure, controlled and affordable processes with which Information and Referral (I&R) organizations can securely share resource database records from their own software system with other systems — and Open Referral has demonstrated considerable success in helping this field move toward that goal.

AIRS is an international association of I&R service providers. Continue reading

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Introducing Benetech Service Net

This post originally appeared on the Benetech blog and is reposted with permission.

As inequality deepens in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area – in Benetech’s backyard – the crises facing our neighbors in need continue to mount. This is happening despite the efforts of governments, philanthropies, nonprofits, and social good work by technology companies in the region. Hundreds of organizations provide thousands of health, human, and social services across the Bay Area, yet we commonly hear that people in need still find it hard to know where to get help.

In the past year, Benetech has been exploring this challenge — learning about the complexities of these service sectors, identifying opportunities to apply our experience developing software for social good, and enabling ecosystems to achieve greater impact through data collaboration. Through this process we’ve initiated Benetech Service Net, an open standards, data collaboration and exchange platform for securely and efficiently sharing data that community-based organizations use to connect people in need of human services. The goal of Benetech Service Net is to provide a software infrastructure so people can better access the services they need to live and prosper. It will enable data collaboration among referral providers, service providers, government agencies, and other safety net stakeholders so that siloed information about services can be shared among the many organizations that are working to help people navigate the safety net.

To understand where we are going from here, let’s recap how we came to this point. Continue reading

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NYC government publishing open data for municipally-contracted service providers

This post comes to us from Oonagh Jordan, a VISTA Fellow with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Opportunity. Oonagh is leading the project management of this initiative.

In New York City, community-based organizations that deliver programming at neighborhood sites play a crucial role in administering City-funded programs and services. There is, however, currently no central listing of all of the city-funded service site locations across the five boroughs where this critical work occurs. If there were a list of this kind, agencies, policymakers, and advocates could better understand how resources are distributed throughout the City and address any gaps in service.

The Social Service Site Location Data project aims to support efficient interagency coordination, collaboration, and decision-making by making this information accessible. …

After some research, NYC Opportunity decided to use the Human Services Data Specification, with some modifications, to organize the data. An advantage of using this existing open-source model is that it is already well-documented and easily ingestible by other applications or systems. Continue reading

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Building Both Technology and Community to Address Homelessness in San Francisco

ShelterTech is currently a 50 member strong all-volunteer non-profit, bringing free wifi and other digital tools to the homeless community of San Francisco.

In November 2017, we won a grant from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to collaborate with the SF Bar Association’s Homeless Advocacy Project to digitize their bi-annual print-only resource guide consisting of hundreds of pages on housing, healthcare, job training, education, and other social services. AskDarcel.org, the new online resource guide, now has a database of over 700 organizations and 1100 services available to those in need in SF.

Our goal is to help solve some of the biggest technology challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness, including providing information to help individuals cope with homelessness and get on a path to housing.

To achieve this goal, ShelterTech has adopted the Open Referral format — to both facilitate AskDarcel’s internal resource directory information management and to enable their application to integrate with the broader ecosystem of health, human, and social services activities in the Bay Area including 2-1-1, government agency databases, and a new human services data sharing initiative being developed by Benetech. Our adoption of Open Referral, along with our commitment to open sourcing their projects, played an important role in their grant application with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. Continue reading

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Streetlives NYC: designing with our users

[Our post today is from Adam Bard, founder of the Streetlives project. Welcome, Adam!]

What is Streetlives

Streetlives is a community built platform that will enable people who are homeless or in poverty to easily find, rate and recommend social services in NYC. This all-inclusive feedback loop can help stakeholders to collaboratively improve programs and services.

Everything we do is guided by the needs of vulnerable people. We run ongoing research and co-design sessions with the community, service provider partners and members of the city administration to prototype and iterate on solutions to their problems.

Streetlives user testing session

The first piece of technology we have launched is the Streetlives Street Team Tool, which is a mobile-first platform for people to create, gather and validate information on social services in Open Referral’s Human Services Data Specification. Continue reading

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Stone Souping Social Service Information with Airtable

The Sahana Software Foundation makes high quality, open source information management systems for emergency preparedness, response, recovery and resilience. We were recently awarded a microgrant by Open Referral (using funding from Stanford’s Digital Impact program, with fiscal sponsorship from the Alliance of Information and Referral Services) to develop and deploy an open source system for managing community resource data in the popular AirTable platform and making it accessible via Open Referral’s Human Services Data API. Continue reading

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