Upgrading the Human Service Data Specifications: 2022 development cycle underway

As Open Referral’s network grows – involving more stakeholders in the development of interoperable resource directory information supply chains – our tools and practices must evolve in kind to support more complex needs.

So we are excited to share that Open Referral has initiated a new development cycle to upgrade the Human Service Data Specifications. This cycle has kicked off with a specific objective to address a significant issue: our specifications need to be adapted across diverse contexts, to support different conventions in different places, while preserving a core of interoperability across our ecosystem.

When designing HSDS, we intentionally did not try to address every possible need that might be presented by each stakeholder – because this would quickly result in an unwieldy specification. Instead, we encouraged adopters to extend (or constrain) the specification as necessary for their localized needs. This approach has encouraged the emergence of initiatives like Open Referral UK, which has customized information elements like addresses and added value sets that are standard in the United Kingdom. Given thise experience, we’re ready to provide more formal guidance to support ongoing formalization of HSDS for use in specific places and contexts.

For this HSDS upgrade cycle, two members of our community – Devin Balkind of Sarapis, and Mike Thacker of Porism – have developed proposals that use the alignment of HSDS and Open Referral UK’s variation as a “reference implementation” for this methodology. These proposals will also be assessed for their ability to support the customization of HSDS to work with other data exchange frameworks like FHIR.

These proposals are available here:

With these proposals on the table, we have formed an HSDS development workgroup of subject matter experts who are reviewing these proposals, elicit feedback from stakeholders, and offering proposed revisions. Through the course of this cycle and culminating at its end, our technical stewards – the Open Data Services Cooperative – will advise on key issues and, once we reach consensus, formalize the result.

Many thanks for the time and talents of all of our workgroup members, including Devin and Mike, Sarah Pottelberg of AIRS, Skyler Young of SiteSavvy, Paul Brown of PlaceCube, Ian Brown of Digital Gaps, and Shelby Switzer of the Beeck Center. We’re also grateful to the Open Data Institute, from which Tim Hill is supporting this workgroup as Secretariat.

To support this workgroup’s efforts, we are seeking feedback from a broad array of stakeholders across our network. For instance, this Friday (July 22nd) from 11a-1p, we will host an open “fishbowl” discussion in which workgroup members will review proposals line-by-line, at which any members of our community are welcome to observe and discuss by chat – invitations available by request. We encourage interested parties to comment on the documents above, or discuss in our issues queue on Github, or reach out directly via info@openreferral.org

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