Introducing Open Referral’s data transformation toolkit

We’re excited to introduce a set of tools that make it easier to standardize resource data.

Community resource directory data (i.e., information about health, human, and social services available to people in need) is deceptively complex. In order to accurately represent the relationships between organizations, the services they provide, and the locations they are offered, Open Referral’s Human Service Data Specification (HSDS) calls for multiple tables, linked together — which can be challenging to work with. HSDS addressed this challenge by calling for a set of CSV files to be bundled together by a ‘datapackage’ which would specify the tables’ contents and relationships in a single machine-readable file.

Few of the members of our community, however, were familiar with datapackages and how to create them. So we’ve now made it easier to facilitate this complex approach to resource data sharing!

Thanks to the Open Knowledge Foundation, which developed the standard format for JSON datapackages, we’ve now upgraded our specification and associated tools to make it easier to produce, share, and read standardized resource data in the HSDS format, datapackage and all. Continue reading

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The DC Community Resource Information Exchange: Phase One Report

The District of Columbia’s community of health, human, and social service providers are struggling with a familiar challenge: they want to be able to more effectively coordinate care among their patients and clients, yet their systems can’t currently ‘talk’ to each other.

In response to this issue, DC’s Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) initiated the DC Community Resource Information Exchange (DC CoRIE) to develop data infrastructure that supports coordinated screening, referral and tracking across a range of health, human, and social services in DC. DHCF selected the DC Primary Care Association (DCPCA) and Open Referral to lead an initial planning phase to help understand how to build infrastructure that would facilitate these functions. As part of this planning phase, we were tasked with the development of a Community Resource Inventory that can sustainably aggregate up-to-date information about the health, human, and social services available to DC residents. Continue reading

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Not another directory of services! Adopting Open Referral in the UK

Today we welcome to the blog Mike Thacker of Porism Limited. Porism is a technical partner of the Local Government Association (LGA), a membership organisation of English local authorities, which owns the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA). Porism works with iStandUK, a local government standards body that promotes efficiency, transformation, and transparency of local public services in the UK. 

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has commissioned discovery work on standards for local community-based services, which recommended alignment with Open Referral’s resource data exchange standards. Now, Porism is working with LGA and iStandUK to test and support extensions to Open Referral. This work includes commissioning an open-source “service finder” application – for which Porism is currently soliciting proposals.

This post is adapted from the original on Medium. 

Most of us who’ve worked in or with the public and voluntary sectors will have come across a plethora of directories of services from registers of specialists kept by a department to more general lists of family services, sporting activities and advisers. The prevalence of such directories of overlapping content and variable quality is a testament to how far away we are from achieving an efficient means of getting accurate information. Now the Local Government Association (LGA) is piloting an approach to bring us closer to that goal. Here I summarise the approach being taken and provide some links for open data people who want to get more involved.

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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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