Open Referral links with Open Active

Hi all
Just wondering if anyone has implemented both Open Referral and Open Active standards? Any advice on how they differ/cross over?


Hi Annie,
You may find this comparison useful:
Comparing OpenActive & Open Referral · Enabling Social Prescribing

A more extensive document here from which that bit was referenced I believe: Por11010 - ODI Social Prescribing work - Technical Review - Google Docs

Can’t put more than 2 links on a post, so am dropping another useful link in a separate reply.


Finally you may want to have a look at the 1st and 2nd comments about this in the Open Standards repository which hosts the consultation launched by the Data Standards Authority for endorsement of ORUK across government.


I don’t know anyone who has implemented both. The references provided by Em should be useful. We have developed a transformation from an OpenActive API feed (provided as a commercial service by Imin) to the Open Referral UK format. I’d envisage someone using such a transformed feed along with other native Open Referral UK feeds in an aggregator that brings them together.

There’s work going on in the UK and the USA on aggregators but I can’t refer you to anything definitive yet. Sorry.

1 Like

In all discussions so far it has been accepted that Open Referral may be seen as a superset of services, including physical activities that are in some OpenAcrive feeds. Hence a transformation from OpenActive to an Open Referral structure (HSDS) is sensible, as given in open source code here.

However OpenActive people have asked for an optional link from a schedule to a page where each single session is shown and there may be a booking option. OpenActive now supports a booking structure.

1 Like

Has anyone got an answer for this that can be explained in Plain English?

I work for an Active Partnership (DCMS>Sport England) and looking at activity finders for social prescribing,

Excuse my rant - its quite light hearted - but I have emails dating back to 2015 on ODI/Opanactive - but only found about about OpenReferral LAST WEEK.

It’s frustrating to discover we are trying to encourage social prescribers to use finders to help people find activities, but then realise they have to use different systems for an photography club’s nature walk and a walking group’s photography trail.

If neither openactive and openreferral are open to each other then why not?

Aren’t we trying to solve the same problem?

Still light hearted - but also a bit #FUMIN

(Cheers for those links [emanukgb])

Hi @julz, welcome to the community!

I appreciate your question (and your light hearted tone). The short answer is that yes, people involved in both initiatives agree that these are standards which ought to be interoperable. We’ve been tentatively exploring the potential to establish interoperability for some time, and recently we’ve been building some momentum – i just spoke with leadership at Sport England about this the other week. Thanks for your patience, and for any interest in helping us move forward.

It may just be a matter of finding the right use case for implementation – perhaps some scenario in which a provider of physical activity information, a provider of service information, and a provider of referral tools want to cooperate in order to present both kinds of information to users together. Suggestions welcome!

Thanks @bloom
I have had a drive in and a meeting, so my incandescence has tempered, slightly.

From a lay POV - the system has identified a need to display session search results for:
Who, and
How to sign up.
(Ok. And some back end text area to allow #topic or #campaign tags to filters.)

We seem to have two discrete datasets/systems for “a photography club’s nature walk and a walking group’s photography trail”.

So to me, my suggestion is just “agree the same columns on a spreadsheet”, isn’t it?

If these the two datasets are not open to each other - one has to ask if there is a guiding intelligence in the universe. (Note: Joke)

Anyway. Its lovely to meet you all, please excuse my awkward questions and I hope we can open up to each other.

I am asking this question on the Openactive Slack.

Hi Julian,

Thanks for your post! I completely agree: OpenActive and Open Referral have a lot of overlap but there’s still a lot to be done to really connect them for practical usage.

OpenActive and Open Referral were created at different times, by different groups, with different focus points, and it’s only recently that real-world use of the data has made the overlap so obvious - especially in the context of social prescribing. It’s great that there’s real data out there, but frustrating that it’s hard to join it up.

There’s been a lot of good groundwork done already: Mike posted above about some work to try and understand the relationships between them, and we’ve had some conversations with other organisations looking to try and put this data into practical use.

I’d love to have a chat about this: I’d like to understand more about the work that you’re doing that’s given rise to this need, and to see if there’s anything that I can point you to, or anything that we could share back to the communities around those standards to make the data more accessible and connected-up.

We’re also looking around for opportunities to develop better tools to work with OA and OR data together, which we could explore as well. My email is or you can book a call via Calendly

Hope to hear from you soon.


I am not sure how Open Referral could be started in 2019 without understanding that there was already an identical solution with a set of agreed standards from the ODI. Its just column headers on a spreadsheet.

The data has the same alltributes whether its fingerpainting or cage fighting.

@Julz I think it’s important to emphasise that Open Referral UK didn’t start from scratch in 2019; they built on the work of the Open Referral Initiative which has been developing standards for human services information interchange since ~2013, mostly in the US. I wasn’t involved in getting Open Referral UK up and running, but I suspect that OpenActive was considered as an alternative base, but ultimately Open Referral was found to be more suitable.

The issues that you’re facing here are going to be increasingly common as people look to use sports sector data in a social context: me and @Dan-ODS really would like to hear more about your work so that we can look for solutions that we can make available to everyone.

A couple of specific points, though:

Both OpenActive and Open Referral are data standards: they describe how to represent data in a standardised way.

OpenActive is an API standard; there isn’t a standardised spreadsheet format. It’s possible to make a spreadsheet format, but you’d have to make some decisions about how to do that - and not everyone might make those decisions in the same way.

Open Referral does have a standardised spreadsheet format, so you can guarantee that all Open Referral spreadsheets are interoperable with each other.

This isn’t quite true: in OpenActive specific instances of an activity are represented, whereas in Open Referral the service that offers the activity is represented.

More concretely, if there is fingerpainting at the community hall at 1pm on Sundays, there would be one row in the Open Referral spreadsheet, but a row for each week in the OpenActive spreadsheet.

OpenActive data needs to be constantly updated: this is fine if you’re exporting directly from a leisure management system and the same system can both operate the booking system at a sports centre reception and run the OpenActive feed, but is a lot of overhead for someone offering community services. If you don’t update it, then it just disappears: it’s not much use knowing that were was fingerpainting last week if you’re interested in this week.

Open Referral data can be updated less regularly, and should be interpreted with this in mind: if someone verified last month that fingerpainting happens on Sundays, then you can be fairly confident of it happening this Sunday, but you’d probably want to check before making a special journey or telling the kids.


In case it would help to have context for the initiation of Open Referral UK in 2019, you can review this report from a research initiative about the need for service directory standards, which looked at Open Active among other relevant standards, and recommended a path forward that we are more or less on now. Looking forward to find opportunities to align these domains!


Thanks Rob. I am just playfully venting my frustration, cheers for being a good sport.

By then way you say ‘service’ rather than the ‘activity’, OR sounds like more of a club database (location and desctiption) than an activity finder (location, time and description) - Openactive doesn’t have a service finders which I am (playfully) ranting about on their forum.

“OpenActive data needs to be constantly updated: this is fine if you’re exporting directly from a leisure management system”
Big ‘If’ there. In our patch we mainly have Gladstone (can export, still waiting), Gladstone Go (too new to export) and XN (just no),

For clubs uploading sessions we have one called Sportsuite as well as Played, Playwaze and Open sessions. In realty we are just scratching the surface with activities, bringing the two together would be ace.

You are right that a club database is more static, is any activities published to the open data system need to be renewed every 8 weeks to keep data clean.

Cheers @bloom - intersting doc

Wish I had known earlier about all this - would have pushed for greater alignment as both systems seem to complementing halves rather than competing duplicates.

No worries, it’s not too late to help us work toward alignment! Actually this is the best time yet :slight_smile:


Good post. I replied, but received “Our automated spam filter, Akismet, has temporarily hidden your post in Open Referral links with Open Active for review.
A staff member will review your post soon, and it should appear shortly.
We apologize for the inconvenience."
Was it something I said?”

Sorry about that, @Julz, somehow your post was flagged as spam which is now my responsibility to review – but i’m new to this role and didn’t get a notification. Approved now, appreciate the followup and patience.

No worries its my role in life.

I’m here to eat apples and disrupt conversations.
And I just finished my apple.

1 Like

Likewise, your contributions here are quite welcome! Open Referral is here to bust silos and promote interoperability :wink: