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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AIRS Recommends Open Referral’s HSDS 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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