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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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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Making Complexity Friendly

Last year, SIMLab completed a project [discussed previously on this blog] with DC Public Library (DCPL) to find out how the library could deliver and maintain good information on social services in DC. Funded by the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund, this project sparked a prolonged investigation into how the American social safety net is constructed. What follows is a rundown of what we did. Continue reading

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Open Referral in Ontario: A Big Step Forward

[This guest post is from Karen Milligan, the new executive director of Ontario 211. Welcome, Karen!]

Excerpt: In partnership with iCarol, and leveraging the Human Services Data Specification, we are now developing a new web platform with new search capabilities to provide accurate and timely information to the public. Behind the scenes of this platform, data from numerous local databases from across the province is aggregated to create a high quality data store of community, social service and health resources. This data store is a significant step towards Ontario’s goal of implementing an ‘open data’ repository, the foundation of our 211 technology platform. Continue reading

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Welcome to Miami Open211

For more than thirty years, Switchboard of Miami has helped residents of Miami-Dade County find information about health and human services whenever someone has picked up the phone and dialed 2-1-1. This makes Switchboard one of the longest-serving referral providers in the field. We’re proud to announce that Code for Miami is now working with the Open Referral Initiative on the Miami Open211 Project, which will transform Switchboard of Miami into an open platform — one of the first of its kind.

Over the past decade, Switchboard’s services have grown far beyond a friendly voice on the other side of telephone; they now operate Seniors Never Alone which provides regular over-the-phone engagement for a large population of otherwise-isolated South Florida seniors, a renowned suicide prevention hotline, the Help Me Grow program for childhood development services, and even face-to-face case management.

Now, Switchboard is exploring yet another new chapter in its long history: open data. Continue reading

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