Bradford - Open Referral Plan

Hi all,

In Bradford we have begun scoping the possibility of using Open Referral to support a network of directories which shared their information, using open access data through Open Referral. The plan behind this is to create a shared database of all community events and activities for members of the public and social workers to use to signpost people to revelant groups, activities and support within local communities.

Instead of a single directory, this would create mutliple directories, focusing on their area of knowledge and expertise; adult care, childrens, mental health, physical activity, etc., which would share their directory entries showing those that a relevant for their target auidence.

Alongside this would be an agreed working method, including sharing of the network, standards for approval of new entries, reviewing of entries, that would improve the content and access to the information for members of the public and professionals that support those in need across the Bradford District.

Has this been attempted in other areas?
Is there a successful exmaple we could draw upon?
Are any other organisations looking to enact something similar?


Thanks for posting here @Ben. Maybe @Ian-DigitalGaps, @alex.sturtivant and @JamesM will have some input.

The lastest phase of DLUHC work to accelerate adoption of Open Referral UK is just kicking off. I expect/hope it will help councils with the same approach share experiences. Your questions are good example of what I would expect from councils and ICBs.


Hi @Ben,

The concept of federated directories feeding a suite of tools for different users is a really interesting concept and I am sure there are examples you could build off.

I see you mentioned physical activity directories and I wanted to flag OpenActive which is a data standard specifically for such directories.

OpenActive data can be transformed to ORUK data to enable integration into community directories (London Sport have a working implementation of this).

I am based in Sheffield and would be happy to meet-up and have a chat around this.


PS There is already work going on around OpenActive in Bradford… Nishal Desai on LinkedIn: Bradford and imin: case study

Hi Ben,

Your vision/model is exactly what is needed to gain the benefits from the HSDS3.0/Open Referral data standard.

You will need to consider data accuracy and how to achieve it, levels of data richness and also consider the categories/taxonomies to bring everything together.

Having senior managers from across the place at the table will give you the drive to find ways around the inevitable teething problems but I encourage you to follow your vision as the benefits will prove their worth and you will be helping to blaze a trail for the way that all directories should be working.

Yours is the same model as is being attempted in Lancashire & South Cumbria ICB.
Read more about this in our blog Early Help

We do have a white paper detailing a model for a place-based DoS and a suite of software products that we are developing with Lancs & South Cumbria. They aren’t ready for the market yet but we would be happy to allow you to join us as an early adopter if that is helpful to you.


btw you can feed Open Active data into Open Referral data so you can also include that in your directory if you want. @MikeThacker will be able to help you with that and I’m pretty sure that London Sports are also developing a way to get Open Active into Open Referral standard with Nish at Imin. It does need some thinking as to what level of OA data you include in your directory.


Hi Ben,

Southampton here. This is slightly a different approach to what we have been doing. We have gone the other way and built one open referral directory which we are getting everyone to use (we have a set up that where trusted partners can be admins for sections of the directory with us as overarching admins).

Our challenge has been getting existing data / directories aligned to the standard as to do it properly it is a fairly manual exercise.

I think the idea of feeds is at the core of having the standard as neighbouring areas should be able to combine info using the API.

Good luck and keep us posted.


cc’ing @skyleryoung in here, as he’s working on similar challenges of federated aggregation with some promising progress on just the initial steps of the process.

Perhaps we should organize an opportunity to do some show and tell and discuss around this topic in the near future?

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Wow, :heart: this topic.

I’ve been leading a team of (mostly) interns and freelance engineers to create a prototype resource data federation tool in Washington State. The goal is to let data managers using entirely different systems share, and even collaborate, on data management without having to adopt or use one “centralized” system, per se. This also opens up the market for creating niche user facing solutions (like public resource directories) that use the resource data, to @Ben’s point.

We’ve demonstrated viability on two fronts:

  1. Piping data from multiple sources into a common database using a sharing and permissions management system.
  2. Using a machine learning assisted process for data managers to rapidly compare and accurately group resource records from multiple sources. This was one of the major obstacles to adoption in our area.

I would be super into a show-and-tell of solutions in this domain :slight_smile:

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Hi Ben

I suspect that Rachael Hambleton-Meadows (Director of Adults) at Bradford would be supportive - is she aware of your thinking?
The taxonomies are critical - and worth engaging health locally in my opinion - perhaps through Rachael - to get their input as well, to ensure the data is useable across their needs and processes.

Happy to share our experiences in Lancashire and connect with Rachael if that would be helpful.
Let us know how your thinking develops.



Thanks Andrew, yes I am in contact with the Living Well team who are leading on that work, but useful to know more about this!

Hi James,

This is an interesting approach, any chance you would be able to share more on this? As an option of an alternative approach that we could consider/propose alongside ours?


Hi Simon,

It was actually Iain MacBeath, Director of Adult Social Care and Health at Bradford, that asked me to think how this would be possible. I have also used my contacts within Health to sense check support too, which they have given (i.e. Healthy Minds).

Knowing what you have done in Lancashire would be of use, if you do not mind sharing?


Hi Ben

No worries drop me an email on

Hi Ben

Happy to share / explain what we have done and are doing. Best to just set up an online meeting and demo / explain?
Happy to help you plan your own journey in that meeting - just to help you outline some steps.

If you want we can demo with some of your information? If you pull together a spreadsheet of a few of your services, then we can load that up live and show you that this populates alongside the data sources. If, so I will send you a spreadsheet to populate and we can demo, so you understand and see what is possible / in place.
I am driving back from Spain next week so can we target w/c 20 May? Wed 22 or Friday 24 are fairly free

Just a note to say (though I DO encourage y’all to connect with each other and discuss among yourselves) it seems like there is sufficient interest in exploring the topic of working collaboratively among multiple directory information systems – with all of the challenge of federation that probably will come with any attempt to achieve aggregation at scale.

So it may be worth hosting a show-and-tell session for starters, including at least one or two such efforts in the US as well.

I can organize this, maybe sometime in early or mid-June. i’ll start a separate thread about this shortly, but let me know if you’d like to be involved.