Microgrants for Human Service Data API implementations

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Greg Bloom

Oct 11, 2017, 10:47:22 AM10/11/17
to OpenReferral
Hi folks!

We're reaching the end of this cycle of development for the Human Services Data API, and during this final phase we want to provide (a very modest amount of) help for folks who want to implement this new protocol in some way.

So we've got a small put of funds to distribute through a kind of micro-grant cycle. This is admittedly an experiment in and of itself, so I'd welcome feedback or ideas that we maybe havent thought of. 

See the announcement below, and in this document here.

Let's get to work! 


Open Referral: Human Services Data API Implementation Honorarium

This is a call for pilot  implementations of HSDA v1.2 to facilitate some method of searching, retrieval and/or editing of resource directory information.

Successful pitches will receive an honorarium and mentoring support. Awardees will have through the end of 2017 to develop an implementation, share the source code, and contribute feedback toward the development of HSDA v1.3 and beyond. Successful projects will be highlighted at a major nonprofit data and technology symposium, and may receive support from Open Referral leadership for future development.

Goal: to promote the adoption of the Open Referral 'Human Services Data API' Specification.

Objective: support specific trial implementations, and share the learning from their experience.

Requirements: your project must use resource directory data mapped to the HSDS v1.1 data format, and consume data, or expose read and/or write access to it via a an API interface that employs HSDA v1.2.


  • Redeploy one of the pre-existing open source front-end interfaces (like Ohana Web Search, HelpSteps, etc), to work with HSDA v1.2. 
  • Prototype a data admin interface. A chatbot. Etc. 
  • Something that may take more than a day but less than a week.

Amount: $500-1500.

To apply: submit a proposal, preferably something that fits on a page. (Appendices welcome.) Outline your project objective, user stories, testable hypothesis and/or questions you seek to answer.

To complete the grant: share open source code and documentation in a publicly available repository by January 2018. Tell us what you accomplished, what you learned, and provide feedback for the development of HSDA. (Unstructured feedback will be received for consideration in future roadmaps; pull requests will be reviewed for potential approval in HSDA v1.3.)

For more information:

contact Greg Bloom (bl...@openreferral.org) re proposals;

Kin Lane (kin...@gmail.com) re technical specifications;

Clive Jones of AIRS (clive...@gmail.com) re administration of funds.


Leading up the Open Referral Initiative
Reach me at 305.962.2859

Web: OpenReferral.org
Twitter: @Open_Referral

Greg Bloom

Nov 22, 2017, 10:11:40 AM11/22/17
to OpenReferral
Hi folks - just wanted to loop back to this.

Clive and I have agreed to support this bid from Devin Balkind of the Sahana Foundation. We worked with Devin to consolidate several components into a single proposal.

I think this little project has very big potential to create a simple, accessible data management system that can be easily redeployed. Looking forward to see what comes of it!



AirTable-Powered Open Referral API for Homeless Services in NYC

By Devin Balkind, President, Sahana Software Foundation, de...@sahanafoundation.org

AirTable is a free SaaS software solution that allows people to create their own databases using a familiar spreadsheet-style interface. Data in these systems is then made available via API, and can also be embedded in webpages. The system’s ease-of-use makes it an ideal backend for managing datasets that are too complex to be managed in a conventional spreadsheet.

For this project, we will train a group of social workers at a homeless shelter to use an AirTable backend to share HSDS-compliant resource information with each other. We will also create a url that allows the public to view some or all of the resource data

Project objective

  • Produce an AirTable-based implementation of HSDS.

  • Create an API “facade” for the AirTable, allowing it to output HSDA v1.2.

  • Produce a training for frontline volunteers and social workers explaining how they can use AirTable to share Open Referral information.

  • Organize an event for volunteers and social workers to share resources via the AirTable.

  • Collect feedback from volunteers and social workers about AirTable usability.

User stories

  • As a social service worker, I want to be able to share a resource directory with my peers so that we can aggregate our individual resource lists into a single, shared one.

  • As a volunteer information manager, I want to input sets of data in bulk from other resource directory spreadsheets, and clean it up so that it is consistent and more manageable moving forward..

  • As a homeless person, I want to be able to use my smartphone to access information about services available to me so I can find information myself without having to speak with a social service worker.

  • As a software developer, I want to be able to access HSDA so that I can build a simple app that displays a list of social services for homeless people in my area.

Testable hypothesis and/or questions you seek to answer.

  • Existing (manually managed) directory data can fit into the HSDS AirTable.

  • Social workers will prefer collaborating on data management with AirTable instead of  their previous spreadsheets and docs.

  • Social workers will use the resource data in Airtable to make effective referrals.

  • If a view only version of the AirTable is made available to the public, will they use it and find it useful?

  • What changes will social workers want to make to the AirTable data structure to make it more useful to them and easier to use? Will this include public and private fieldsets? Will they want to embed segments on websites?

Greg Bloom

May 3, 2018, 3:44:47 PM5/3/18
to OpenReferral
Hi folks - just closing the loop on this :

In yesterday's blog post, Devin Balkind introduced this exciting new element for the Open Referral ecosystem — a spreadsheet-ish, freely-redeployable, content management system for AirTable: https://openreferral.org/stone-souping-social-service-information-with-airtable/

many thanks to Devin Balkind, the Sahana Foundation, Kin Lane, Clive Jones and AIRS, and Stanford's Digital Impact program, for getting this together. Really exciting to see, and i hear some groups are already starting to use it. Your feedback would be very welcome!

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