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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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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Maryland Open211: Learning a New Language

There is a great scene in the 1984 version of Footloose where the high school “punk” Wren (played by Kevin Bacon) seeks permission from the town council to hold a dance. The local Pastor (played by John Lithgow) reminds Wren, the local citizens, and the town council that a dance is fraught with evil and should not be allowed. The tone of the once divisive meeting changed when Wren begins to quote biblical passages about the religious benefits of dancing: people began to listen and a dialogue was opened between the students and the faith/city leaders. Wren learned the unique “language” of the town council and in the end actually gets permission to take the Pastor’s daughter to the dance.

2-1-1 Maryland’s evolution to Open Referral has been similar to that 1984 film. We are learning the new ‘language’ of API’s, while also learning to communicate with new nontraditional partners.

2-1-1 Maryland’s mission is to ensure all residents of our state have access to community resources that can help them meet their needs. That’s why we’re excited to announce the Maryland Open211 project. Maryland Open211 will test and scale innovative means of sharing 2-1-1’s invaluable resource data as an open, interoperable resource available to all. Continue reading

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Hacking on Link With Optimizely And Benetech

Open Referral went to San Francisco on Wednesday August 9th to participate in a social good hack-day at Optimizely. In collaboration with our partner Benetech, Open Referral set up as one of the social good projects that 20+ employees worked on for the day.

 

Overall, our team was strong in front-end web and mobile developers, so we decided to “forward engineer” Zendesk’s Link-SF application so that it can be deployed on any Open Referral-compatible API. […]

You can find the updated Link source code in our Github repository. If you want to run this app locally, you can save a file as `config.js`and follow the instructions on the setup page. Continue reading

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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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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! (My talk starts at 14m40s.)


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

[Update: This pilot has come to a successful conclusion! Read our final report here.]

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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