Open Referral is led by local pilot projects in which various stakeholders work to establish open, sustainable resource directory platforms in their community. Pilots commit to using the Open Referral data format to enable the exchange of resource directory data between existing and/or emerging systems.

In return, pilot stakeholders’ feedback is prioritized in shaping the ongoing iteration of our format. The goals of pilot projects include demonstrating short-term value of standardized open data systems, while developing a plan for long-term sustainability.


Who participates in a pilot project?

Local pilot projects consist of teams led by lead stakeholders — i.e. institutions with a specific need for service directory data to serve their communities, including front-line service organizations (such as libraries, schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, etc) as well as referral services, safety net funders, research institutions, local governments, etc. These lead stakeholders commit time and resources to participate in the search for solutions, and they constitute the ultimate decision-making body in the project.

Stakeholders are joined by partners — i.e. civic tech networks, software vendors, etc — who may play essential roles in implementation, though do not necessarily hold decision-making power.



We expect a pilot project to have a leadership table, comprised of designated representatives of lead stakeholders, who meet regularly to deliberate and decide upon issues of sustainability and governance.

Pilots should also have ‘backbone’ support capacity — ideally including one to two full-time equivalent staffers. This support capacity should consist of some combination of community coordination capacity (to facilitate stakeholders, conduct user research, and organizing activities) along with design and technical engineering expertise.



Local teams have four distinct objectives.

  • Data: aggregating, standardizing, and validating existing community resource datasets.
  • Platforms: building ‘open’ systems that can publish data to an ecosystem of tools.
  • Testing and evaluation of data, platforms, and tools through user-centered activities.
  • Planning for long-term sustainability and governance.


Criteria for success:

  • Decrease in costs of data production and increase in data quality.
  • Significant improvements in service discovery and delivery.
  • Acceleration of innovation in new tools and applications that connect people to information, along with decrease in costs of new and redeployed technology.
  • Meaningful use in research, analysis, and decision-making.


Are you interested in starting a pilot in your community? Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Pilot Projects