The Human Services Data Specification (HSDS; sometimes referred to as “The Open Referral format”) is an exchange format for publishing machine-readable data about health, human, and social services: their locations, and the organizations that provide them. We define “human services” broadly, to include any organizational resource that is made available for a person in need – such as food assistance, job training, child care, etc.
The primary use case served by HSDS is the provision of human service directory information as “open data,” to be consumed by any third-party information system.
HSDS is designed to provide a medium for bulk interchange of data about human services; it is designed to help systems that answer the question of “where should I look for help?” or “which services are normally available around my schedule?”.
It has features that can be used as the basis of a real-time system. Developers of such systems should ensure that the data that they’re using contains enough detail and is updated regularly enough to support that use, particularly around times that there may be variations (such as holidays).
Government entities, community organizations, and people often face difficulty obtaining timely and correct data about human services. The Human Services Data Specification facilitates the open exchange and use of human service data (often known as “community resource data”) among these stakeholders. To that end, this is an interchange format designed to complement – not replace – existing storage formats currently in use.
All organizations that provide services or referrals to services, as well as entities that distribute digital human service directory information, are invited to publish their data in this format, whether they be governments at the local, regional, or national level; civic organizations; software developers; etc.
Learn more about Open Referral at openreferral.org.