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‘Community resource directory data' comprises information about the accessibility of health, human, and social services that are available to people in need. Such services are provided by a fractured landscape of governments, nonprofit organizations, contractors, and other civic institutions. Institutions that fund services don’t tend to collect information about the accessibility of those services – and service providers often lack strong incentives to promote this information themselves. Instead, directory data tends to be aggregated by ‘infomediaries,’ for use in their proprietary channels, or for sale to third parties as a commodity. The result is a knowledge anti-commons, in which resource data is simultaneously overproduced and underutilized – a tragedy that causes systemic dysfunction across the so-called safety net. This paper outlines a set of strategic interventions pursued through the Open Referral Initiative – a community of practice that has developed data exchange standards, open source tools, and pilot projects through which multiple stakeholders experiment with new methods of sharing resource information as open data. The paper’s final section outlines a set of institutional designs that can hypothetically sustain the provision of trustworthy open resource data as a public good.
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