A look inside the DC Open211 project

Over at Code for DC’s blog, the DC Open211 team reports back from the kickoff of the ‘Rebuilding Re-entry’ social lab.

At this event, a number of groups explored the various challenges facing people who return from prison — and one of the most prominent themes was the difficulty of finding reliable information about services that can help them get back on their feet. Of all the resource directories produced in the DC metro area, participants even identified three that are produced specifically for formerly incarcerated people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, yet all siloed!

Over the course of the weekend, the DC Open211 team took a number of steps toward a world where this information is easier to find and use. You can read through the whole post, but one piece in particular is worth highlighting here:

From status quo (bottom left) through a collaborative data standardization process (center) to a future of open data (at right).

Credit to Matteo Becchi (@MatteoRocks) and Jenn Stowe (@jennisaisquoi)

The image above is a graphical depiction the technical objectives of the DC Open211 project. Building on the visual vocabulary developed by DC Open211 lead organizer Jenn Stowe, this mural starts (bottom left) in the status quo of siloed directories — and then it shows how disparate sources of information about services could be brought into a system that we’re calling a “Resource Repository,” where records be collaboratively edited and validated before being exposed as standardized open data through DC’s Ohana API (top right).

Now, we don’t yet have something like a Resource Repo — in which disparate sources of data can be edited and verified by distributed users. We’re learning that this is a critical piece of the whole puzzle, and it’s shaping up to be one of the key objectives for the next year of the Open Referral initiative.

Read more about what the DC Open211 project is working on with returning citizens in our nation’s capital, and share your thoughts in the comments about the prospect of a ‘Resource Repository.’

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