Open Referral to support Cost of Living pressures & listing community assets

Hi all,

We have been using the standard (in partnership with Bristol) for our adult directory data for a few years now. I have recently been drawn into conversations re; planning for the impact of the CoL pressures, and will be exploring how the standard can support the listing of community ‘assets’ (think ‘warm banks’ etc or drop-ins where vulnerable or those struggling can attend)

I’ve been thinking practically about the ‘user journey’ and how such lists will be easily findable for residents and professionals who are searching. Historically the approach would have been to either list these on a webpage, or build a new directory (in a PDF file or Excel) - but we want to avoid that if possible and use the directory we already have to provide this…

My question is, are there other LAs planning to use the standard to support this, and how are you going about it? What is your primary user need/circumstance that the service lists will be generated around?

I have checked the service types and circumstances lists ( and there doesn’t appear to be a generic ‘CoL concerns’ type that we can use. Some that may be usable are:

Warm homes healthy people (Service)
Warmth (Need)
Poor health (Need)
Food (circumstance)
Food banks (Service)

So am I correct in thinking we may either need to a) use some or all of the above, or
b) request a new one, wait for it to be added, then tag all the relevant services retrospectively with that?

Thanks guys!


Hi @Abigail

Apologies, I don’t have a direct answer for you on OR, so this is more of a related tangent!

360Giving (we also work on this at Open Data Services) have just put some guidance for grantmakers in terms of how to annotate their records for CoL grants.

360Giving doesn’t have a formal taxonomy, so in this case the advise is to use freetext/strings for the CoL circumstances. 360Giving took a similar approach with COVID, which supported many publishers to quickly annotate their data, enabling a dashboard to be created. In the context of how organisation share data with the 360Giving standard, this approach seems to fit well.

In the International Aid Transparency Initiative, COVID could be tagged in various ways - but that made life more difficult for data users, ultimately.

Apologies again for not responding to your specific question, but I just wanted to share that the issue of trying to describe something new (and there always seems to be something) in an existing standard, is a common challenge. A good response seems to be to listen to the user needs and requirements - but it’s an evolving discussion, and I look forward to hearing from colleagues in this community.

Here’s the 360 COVID dashboard, as I was only allowed two links in a new post

I wasn’t spamming @bloom , honest!

Good questions Abigail and I hope some local authority people will chip in.

I think it’s recognised that the Need, Circumstance and Sevice type lists need to mature from experience - particularly as they were originally conceived around local authority services rather than local services in general.

I’ll ask our taxonomist to look at your points when she returns from holiday in mid-October.

1 Like

Hi Abigail, I am the founder of which is an easy to use one stop shop for social prescribing information. It is currently operating in parts of West Yorkshire and Derbyshire. I am in the process of adding a new section under “My Money” called Warm Spaces (or similar,) for exactly this issue. Treacle is a great front end and I am working with Open Referral to find a way of us adopting it as the back end for the site. At the moment I can adapt the site as needs arise ie for Covid and CoL issues. it is a worry that there will be no possibility to do this if we go with OR.

Hi Helen – thanks for joining and discussing with folks!

I think it might help to clarify that Open Referral is not a back-end information system, not a directory database, etc. It’s a data exchange format that can enable resource directory information to be shared among many databases, websites, etc.

So if you and other partners use Open Referral to publish and/or receive resource data among your systems, your website could display data that is collected and assured by a third party, enabling you to focus more of your time and energy on building a great web interface for your users.

And/or, if your project is well-positioned to collect information that no other projects are reliably maintaining, you could publish that data to other parties using Open Referral, so that the same reliable information can be found anywhere.

It can take some work to figure out the specific value proposition that will work for you and your community and partners, so I’d be glad to discuss further. Just wanted to note that Open Referral is not software or a directory database – it’s here to make it easier for you to adapt your site to specific needs with the same information that others might use for different ends.

1 Like

Hi @Abigail, I had a very similar conversation with Kevin at The Care Forum just a few weeks ago, so also interested to see what people think about the taxonomies, in terms of being responsive to emerging/established external factors, such as CoL or a pandemic. Partly from a user experience / search perspective, but also in terms of being able to report on targeted service coverage (and identifying gaps in the same).

1 Like

Thanks @bloom, I’ve spoken with @Helen and we’re arranging to speak with her developer. It would be ideal if:

*Treacle could split its front end from its back end so the back end can feed data according to the Application Programming Interface (API) and the front end can work with its own API feed or any other compliant API feed

  • Treacle can go on to support other areas of the UK

I’m attaching these diagrams to show different stages of adoption of the standard:

Separating front and back ends:

Multiple front ends for different audiences

Combined feeds from multiple back ends