Open Community: Common data standards for community-based services (Beta)


  1. Project outputs
  2. Timeline

Each council manages their own directory of community services, which is used to signpost residents to the organisations and public agencies that provide the local support they are looking for.

But different organisations hold and share their information in different ways. This means that directories can lack consistency and become laborious to maintain. When not effectively maintained, residents find it difficult to access the right information about the services available to them.

Four councils have been working together to define the Open Referral UK data standard. Organising community service data in a common way makes it easier to build directories, design new features, aggregate key data and ultimately to reduce duplication.

The standard is now on its way towards adoption by councils throughout the UK. It is already being used in Buckinghamshire Family Information Service, and a series of loneliness pilot projects led by the LGA, for example.

The purpose of the beta phase is:

  • To grow the community of users of the standard and to provide them with practical support for its adoption.
  • To deliver three demonstrator projects that will support the evidence-base underpinning the standard and informing its continued development.
  • To identify and work with potential major consumers of community services data, such as the NHS and DWP, and to support uptake of the standard in service directory products offered by the private sector.

Project outputs

The project has delivered three main digital products and strategic guidance for the standard going forwards. These are:

  • a new website for Open Referral UK, focusing on explaining the data standard, its benefits, and guidance on how to adopt it
  • a developer-facing website for Open Referral UK to support software developers in their work to implement the standard. The bulk of the work on this website was done during the alpha project. For the beta we added the new Open Referral UK visual identity and some UX improvements to the software tools
  • an online community forum to facilitate discussion and answer questions about the data standard
  • a video for Open Referral UK to explain what the data standard is and what problem it solves

Project Timeline

November 2020

The project beta phase kicks off.

February 2021

The project receives £100,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work. This next phase of work will see three exemplar ‘pilot’ projects use the standard in order to develop the evidence-base and test it in practice.

Another key strand of work will be on developing the community of practice and establishing a governance model for the standard going forwards. This will include strategic engagement with key organisations in the public, private and third sector.