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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Open Referral Helps Skillful Provide Data Transparency Around Workforce Training Programs

“While there may be enough work to maintain full employment to 2030 under most scenarios, the transitions will be very challenging—matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.”

These findings come from a recent report released by the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation.” The report reflects the current anxieties of today’s workforce: employers worry about finding and retaining the talent they need to remain competitive, and workers stress about how to obtain and hone the skills employers want.

Skillful — a non-profit initiative of the Markle Foundation, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and the State of Colorado — works with local partners to achieve a skills-based labor market that works for everyone. Starting by expanding throughout Colorado and then moving to additional states, the partnership aims to create a model that can be replicated across the U.S. to help millions of Americans overcome barriers to obtaining better-paying jobs.

To this end, Skillful has partnered with the company I work for, Brighthive, a data technology company, and the Colorado Department of Higher Education to launch the Training Provider Outcomes Toolkit (TPOT). Continue reading

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Implementing Open Referral with Drupal and WordPress

Abhijeet Chavan is the Chief Technology Officer of Urban Insight, a digital solutions agency that produces platforms like DLAW, a Drupal-based legal aid resource platform. In this post, he describes the recent adoption of Open Referral for DLAW’s legal aid resource websites, which are in use in over a dozen states across the country. Welcome, Abhijeet! –ed

Many organizations provide health, legal, and other social services to people in need. If organizations can publish information about the services they provide in a common format, this data can be aggregated and searchable so that people needing assistance can find right organization for their needs. The Open Referral initiative has developed a data interchange format called the Human Service Data Specification (HSDS) for publishing machine-readable data about service providers, their locations, and the services they provide.

For organizations that use the Drupal content management system for maintaining their websites, we have developed <em”>openreferral-drupal (ORD), an open source Drupal module to make it possible to publish resource directory data in HSDS format. The ORD module was developed as part of the Drupal for Legal Aid Websites (DLAW) project. Continue reading

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