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Open Referral

Health, human, and social services are essential resources that help people meet their needs and live well. The Human Services Data Specification is being developed by the Open Referral Initiative to help make information about such services easier to maintain, share, find, and use.

Read the Specification

Help Finding Help

Information about health, human, and social services is an essential element of our public infrastructure. It is literally what one needs to ‘see’ the safety net. It should be reliable and easy to find, in all kinds of ways.

But there’s no one way to keep track of all these services, so lots of different organizations produce their own directories with much of the same information, formatted differently — yielding a wasteful and fragmented landscape of silos.

We’ve written about why this is such a hard problem, both on Code for America's blog and in the book Beyond Transparency. Over the past few months, the Open Referral initiative has been gearing up to tackle this problem. Through a multi-stakeholder, multi-city collaboration, we’re going to make it easier to compile, share, and find this information.

Read more

Get involved!


  • Jack Madans (Government Partnerships Manager)

    Jack’s work with CfA’s government partners ranges broadly from innovation policy and open data efforts to change management and community organizing. He cut his teeth as a community organizer early on when he founded the pilot project, FoodCycle, while studying at the London School of Economics. While interning at the White House, Jack assisted with policy production in the the Office of Urban Affairs and outreach to the nation’s Mayors in the office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Jack earned a degree in Political Science from UC Berkeley.

  • Susie Cambria (DC pilot advisor)

    Susie has been working in the District of Columbia on human services, good government, and budget advocacy since 1996. In the early 2000s, Susie was part of a team of nonprofits tasked with creating a central directory of health and human services, which eventually became the city's information and referral system Answers, Please! Since then, Susie has regularly monitored the system and advocated for improvements. When not working on Answers, Please!, she has dedicated a significant portion of her professional life to advocating for more and better spending for children, youth and families, a more transparent DC budget and process, and connecting government and nonprofits in an effort to better serve DC residents

  • Derek Coursen (Workgroup member)

    Derek has spent the last two decades leading the design of information systems, performance measures and data exchange protocols for government and nonprofit organizations across the justice, human service and public health sectors. He is adjunct faculty at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service and blogs about data strategy at Human Service Informatics.


  • Neil McKechnie (Workgroup member)

    Neil is the Director of Services at CharityLogic, the purveyor of iCarol, and has been in that role since 2005. Prior to that Neil held senior positions in sales, marketing and technology at Intel and Microsoft. He holds a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, and is Microsoft Certified in web development. He lives with his family in northern California.

  • Hailey Pate (Workgroup member)

    Hailey began her public sector career in 2004 when she went to work for the surgery department of a local county hospital. Despite her passion for working with patients, a close call one evening with a sticky freezer door in the hospital basement encouraged her to seek more administrative pursuits. She developed the county’s first injured patient database in 2008 and went on to coordinate EMS and trauma data systems for the State of California in 2011. A Chicano Studies major in college, Hailey isn’t much of a coder, but she still manages to plant seeds of innovation inside government and hack with Code for Sacramento on most Wednesday nights.


  • Phil Ashlock (Standards advisor)

    Phil helps create digital civic infrastructure to support civic engagement and open government. He's spearheaded community-driven civic technology initiatives with global reach like the Open311 standard for interacting with government through an open feedback channel. He is currently the Chief Architect at where he leads an open development process and helps implement a federated architecture to support open data and APIs across government. Previously, he served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow working with the GSA and the White House Office of Digital Strategy on Project MyUSA.




Apps and Outcomes