Miami Open211 Phase One: Our Report

Last year, the Miami Open211 project set out to demonstrate that an information-and-referral helpline operator can evolve into an open platform — providing machine-readable data as a service to its community — in ways that are both technically efficient and institutionally sustainable.

This project, which began in partnership with Switchboard of Miami, was Open Referral’s first formal pilot with a 2-1-1 provider.

Last week, we submitted the final report for this first phase of innovation. Many thanks to the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, which funded our experiment, and Jewish Community Services of South Florida, the new steward of Miami-Dade’s 2-1-1 service. With their blessing, we are excited to share our findings with the Open Referral community.

See the Final Report document here.

And check out a summary of our key accomplishments below. Continue reading

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Upgrade: the Human Services Data Specification version 1.1

by Tim Davies of the Open Data Services Cooperative

After two years of testing, feedback, and deliberation across the Open Referral initiative, we’ve just upgraded the Human Services Data Specification to version 1.1.

Check HSDS v1.1 out here. If you have questions or feedback, you can comment there directly on the site or discuss the changes in our Github issue tracker; you can also join the conversation in the Open Referral Google Group.
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Talking Open Referral at Stanford’s Data on Purpose

Last month I visited Stanford to speak at the 2017 Data on Purpose conference, sponsored by Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Digital Impact (née Markets for Good).

From Possibilities To Responsibilities: Unlocking Data and Unleashing Its Potential (Jake Porway et al) from Stanford PACS.

Much of the story I told will be familiar to folks who are already familiar with Open Referral but this may be the first time I’ve managed to give a proper tour through the wickedness of this problem, and the principles that guide our search for solutions, all in just about twelve minutes. So give it a watch!


The Open Referral API project

The Open Referral Initiative’s next chapter starts now!

Open Referral has helped over a dozen community organizations find new ways to share resource directory information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. Our Human Services Data Specification provides a common ‘machine language’ that any technology can be programmed to understand. This work has spurred a proliferation of ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs) — which publish machine-readable resource data for third-parties to query in real-time, so they can repurpose it in new ways.

So our newest mission is to establish interoperability across this new wave of resource directory APIs, so that machine-readable data about human services can be easily accessed and shared with a common protocol — regardless of technology, jurisdiction, organizational status, etc.

Thanks to Markets for Good for this opportunity!Toward this end, we’ve received funding from the Markets for Good program — which is now a part of the new Digital Impact initiative (digitalimpact.io) hosted by the Digital Society Lab at Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society!

Read Markets for Good’s announcement here. Continue reading

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The Florida Legal Resource Directory Project

Legal problems: sometimes you don’t even know you have one until it’s too late.

When it comes to people with low incomes, legal problems of various kinds — issues with landlords, family disputes, rejected benefits, etc — can be outright debilitating. Yet while there are many legal resources available to people in need, these kinds of services tend to be some of the hardest for people to find and access.

That’s why we’re excited to be starting an Open Referral pilot project with legal service providers across the state of Florida.

With support from the Florida Bar Foundation, the Legal Services Corporation, and LegalServer — and in coordination with multiple other implementations of the Open Referral format in legal aid networks across the country — Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida will pilot a new, replicable approach to publishing directory information about legal services as standardized, machine-readable data that will be freely accessible to an ecosystem of tools and services that help people find help.

NB: we are soliciting proposals for technical leadership on this project. See this RFP.

To learn more, read this post from Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s Executive Director, Kimberly Sanchez, below — and you can also reach out to info@openreferral.org to inquire about starting a similar pilot projects in your community. Continue reading

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Open Referral in Oklahoma!

This is a guest post from Aaron Bean of Asemio. Welcome, Aaron!

We’re pleased to introduce the first iteration of the Oklahoma Open 2-1-1 project, which is leveraging the Ohana platform and the Open Referral format to make it easier for Oklahoma residents to find and share information about community resources that can help improve their lives.

This is just an initial demonstration of a major initiative that dates back several years. A wide range of stakeholders across many sectors in Tulsa and our surrounding region have been developing a shared assessment of the complex nature of our social problems, and we have recently coalesced around a common goal: to understand and reduce disparities in health outcomes by race, class, and gender through a holistic view of the various community systems that serve individuals and families. (See our whitepaper PDF here.)

Toward this goal, we seek to answer the question of how we can better align and integrate the various resources in our community that might help solve complex social problems. Continue reading

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Welcoming Benetech to Open Referral!

We’re pleased to announce a new strategic partnership with Benetech, one of the world’s leading non-profit software development organizations.

Benetech was formed in 1989 and in the time since has developed a series of products that have improved lives and transformed industries around the world — starting with Bookshare (the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with blindness or dyslexia) and most recently featuring projects like Martus (for secure mobile document sharing among human rights organizations and activists).

Benetech focuses on doing “the right stuff right” — in other words, they choose work that can make a difference in people’s lives, and they build state-of-the-art technology that can scale. Open source development and social good are at the core of their principles.

That aligns directly with our work in Open Referral. Continue reading

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Leveling up: documentation improvements and spec upgrade

Last year, Open Referral introduced Version 1.0 of the Human Services Data Specification — an open data exchange format designed to make it easier for different organizations to share standardized information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. Since then, a broad range of organizations have used the HSDS to make resource directory data easier to find and use in new ways in their communities.

We’ve received a lot of great feedback along the way, and we’re now ready to put this learning into action — by improving the HSDS itself, and making it easier for people and organizations to use.

This upgrade cycle has already begun: the Open Data Services Cooperative (read their introduction here) has already taken a series of steps to make it easier to understand, comment upon, and work with the HSDS.

Introducing our new documentation

First of all, Open Referral now has our very own Github organization, which hosts our data specification and associated materials. You can check us out here. Continue reading

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Joining Up Data Standards: the U.S. Data Federation and beyond

We’re pleased to announce that Open Referral is one of the first seven initiatives to be featured by the U.S. Data Federation, a new initiative from the federal General Services Administration, in association with Data.Gov, to promote the effective use of civic data through interoperability.

As the GSA explains in its introduction of the new project: “The U.S. Data Federation will support government-wide standardization and data federation initiatives across both Federal agencies and local governments.”

In its initial form, the U.S. Data Federation is simply highlighting a set of data standardization initiatives — such as the Voting Information Project, Open311, and the Building and Land Development Specification (BLDS), alongside Open Referral. These initiatives are diverse, yet they share common goals: to improve the accessibility and deliverability of critical public information (in these instances: data about elections, municipal operations, and permitting data, respectively) across jurisdictions and technically varying environments. Continue reading

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