We designed the Human Service Data Specifications (HSDS)to make it easy to share information about human services of any kind. But given the many nuanced differences across human service sectors – and states and countries and etc – it’s just not feasible to standardize every possible kind of information associated with any kind of service anywhere. So we didn’t try to do that!
Instead, HSDS standardizes the most common information elements that can be expected in virtually any service – which turns out to be a relatively small set of fields, especially when it comes to the core requirements. This ensures that HSDS is relatively practical to adopt; however, at the same time, we do want users to be able to share additional information that is important to their communities even if not specified in the core format. To strike this balance, we’ve encouraged adopters to develop extensions through which they could include information that HSDS does not specify.
Now, with the publication of the new and improved HSDS version 3.0, we’ve gone even farther in enabling users to customize the specification to meet their specific needs, while preserving interoperability across our diverse ecosystem.
HSDS 3.0 supports “Profiles” through which adopters can publish a formalized set of extensions, constraints, and enumerations that together amount to their own tailored version of the standard. Continue reading
NPC (New Philanthropy Capital) is a UK-based nonprofit whose mission is to help nonprofits and those that fund them to maximise their impact for the people they exist to serve. We work with individual nonprofits and funders to help them develop their strategies, learn and improve as individual organisations, and over our 20 year history we’ve worked with hundreds of organisations. But the impact we can have by working on the infrastructure that supports (or should support!) all nonprofits is greater still than that we have by working with organisations one-to-one.
One of the most ubiquitous challenges we’ve found throughout NPC’s history is signposting and referrals. In all our work to highlight effective nonprofits, we’ve found that a lack of infrastructure and standards around referrals mean that organisations can’t maximise their impact. Great nonprofits don’t necessarily get the referrals they should. People who want and need support don’t necessarily find the organisations and programmes that would work for them. In a sector that has very scarce resources, failing to crack the referrals challenge leaves huge potential on the table.
So NPC has been excited to work on the challenge of signposting and referrals over the last 7 years. First, we worked collaboratively with a group of youth nonprofits to develop a service directory prototype platform for young people called My Best Life. We built the service from the ground up – populating the directory with service data manually and laboriously, as there simply weren’t feeds available of information about local services in the area of London we focused on in the prototype. And because we wanted to work towards a standardised infrastructure for the future, we provided an Open Referral compliant feed of our data.
Today, NPC’s work has moved on from prototyping a product (now being taken to market by tech for good company Mind Of My Own) to exploring the infrastructure needed to support directories like My Best Life, and youth nonprofits as a whole. Working with the public benefit programme of UK domain name registrar Nominet – an organisation that knows the importance of digital infrastructure – NPC has led a collaborative programme of work called Signpost+. The first phase of the programme focused on research and discovery – identifying organisations who were contributing to the (fledgling) signposting and referrals infrastructure for young people, and working with them to envisage the future infrastructure of the youth sector.
This work culminated in the publication of a report called How might we improve signposting for young people? which set out our recommendations for the future. Continue reading
Welcome back to our blog Mike Thacker of Porism Limited. Porism is a technical partner of the Local Government Association (LGA), a membership organisation of English local authorities which owns the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA). Porism also works with iStandUK, a local government standards body that promotes efficiency, transformation, and transparency of local public services in the UK.
On March 16th 2022 the UK Government Data Standards Authority Steering Board formally endorsed Open Referral UK (ORUK).
Endorsement means that UK central government departments should apply the standard in future for interchanging open data describing services. Though this does not amount to a mandate for use of the standard by local governments and “arms-length bodies” such as the National Health Service (NHS), it does build upon the Local Government Association’s early adoption as reported here in 2019 – and the NHS has already established requirements in its Health Systems Support Framework that Social Prescribing systems must (after a grace period allowed for adoption) be able to read from Open Referral UK compliant data feeds. These developments build upon a significant uptake of adoption in our sector among initiatives like LOOP, and encourage further alignment among related institutions.
Leeds, a city in the North of England, has developed an open-source API-based service directory data infrastructure. LOOP (Leeds Open Online Platform) provides a way for the city’s local authority, voluntary sector and private partners to collaborate on a shared information repository.
The City Digital Partnerships Team is currently leading the project. We are hosted by Leeds City Council (the local authority of the city of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England), but our focus is to work together across all of the organisations that deliver health and social care to the people in the city.
LOOP re-uses elements from a project in Kingston-upon-Thames in London, in which a local authority used the Open Referral data model to build a MySQL database with APIs and an admin interface. Through LOOP, third parties can build their own websites and systems that connect to our API. We’re also developing a cross-platform widget that can render content on other websites.
Initially this project didn’t have any specific interoperability or integration requirements – but we quickly recognised there are benefits of being a part of a broader community of practice, and the potential to exchange interoperable technology in the future. We also knew that, in order to bring together many partners, it was vital to have a data standard to which all could agree. That’s why we enthusiastically decided to use the Open Referral data model.
Today we welcome to the blog Mike Thacker of Porism Limited. Porism is a technical partner of the Local Government Association (LGA), a membership organisation of English local authorities, which owns the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA). Porism works with iStandUK, a local government standards body that promotes efficiency, transformation, and transparency of local public services in the UK.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has commissioned discovery work on standards for local community-based services, which recommended alignment with Open Referral’s resource data exchange standards. Now, Porism is working with LGA and iStandUK to test and support extensions to Open Referral. This work includes commissioning an open-source “service finder” application – for which Porism is currently soliciting proposals.
This post is adapted from the original on Medium.
Most of us who’ve worked in or with the public and voluntary sectors will have come across a plethora of directories of services from registers of specialists kept by a department to more general lists of family services, sporting activities and advisers. The prevalence of such directories of overlapping content and variable quality is a testament to how far away we are from achieving an efficient means of getting accurate information. Now the Local Government Association (LGA) is piloting an approach to bring us closer to that goal. Here I summarise the approach being taken and provide some links for open data people who want to get more involved.
This post is from Tim Davies, founding member of the Open Data Services Co-operative.
We’re really delighted to announce the Open Data Services Co-operative’s new collaboration with Open Referral on the Miami Open 211 project, and on wider developments of the Human Services Data Specification (HSDS).
At the Open Data Services Co-operative, we’re passionate about helping people publish and use open data for social impact, particularly where data standards are involved. We believe that data standards are a key part of shared infrastructure for collaboration. As infrastructure, standards need a lot of behind the scenes design, development and maintenance work. When standards operate well, most users will hardly notice them. When standards are neglected, all sort of opportunities for connection, collaboration and engagement break down. But standards are not just technical — they are fundamentally social: about connecting people as well as information. Continue reading
Last October, I had the opportunity to visit London and spend some time learning about the UK social sector, at events such as the excellent NPC Ignites conference. On this trip, I was impressed by people’s sense of pride in the country’s long history of public service provision. But I also heard clear notes of anxiety about the present and future of the sector, given converging trends such as budget cuts and privatisation. Continue reading