The case and strategy for scaling adoption of Open Referral UK

The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is running a project to look at the case and potential strategy for wider adoption of the Open Referral standard.

Open Referral UK was established as a standard for the interchange of open data on community services (commonly provided via directories) following recommendations by Local Digital funded Discovery work. The Standard was piloted by the Local Government Association (LGA) with three councils.

Subsequent work by Buckinghamshire Council implemented the Standard for a Family Information Services directory. A Local Digital beta project documented the Standard, case studies and basic guidance on implementation in the Open Referral UK website.

While great strides have moved this work in the direction of mainstream use, there remains a gap between current adoption of standard, and the impact that it could achieve with some further work to ensure it achieves ‘tipping point’. The DLUHC work from now until December 2023 will examine the business case for adoption and, where it is strong, the project will lay out a strategy for achieving wider adoption of the Standard.

The work, led by TPX Impact, will draw together prior research from LocalDigital projects, the LGA pilot and the Department for Education’s Family Hubs team. The DLUHC project team would like to interview a broad cross-section of stakeholders from those who have enthusiastically embraced the Standard to those who have chosen not to adopt it or are unaware of it.

This forum thread will feature regular updates and news of Show & Tells. Follow here and/or join the Open Referral UK mailing list to get updates and have the opportunity to participate.


Hi. Good stuff.

I am with an Active Partnership (under Sport England) and we are working with the ODI on the “Open Active” initiative to get organisations sharing scheduled physical activities.

Lots of people seem to be working on different parts of the same puzzle of providing clean data sources.
Local authorities are often building their own directories from the ground up and Sport Engalnd’s “Active places” has a wealth of data.

I am still looking to the promised land where there is one cloud of clean, standardised data that includes:

  • Physical activity (time/place/organisation data) ODI
  • Cultural and social activity (time/place/organisation data) Volunteer sector?
  • Directory (place, organisation data) OR / Active Places
  • Parks and green/blue spaces (place data) Local authorities / Water companies

ODI are looking into a directory option and have mentioned OR, but it’s very much from a physical activity perspective so it will be good to see if there can be standards we can all share, like Active Places ‘SiteID’ tagging to help minimise database overlap.

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Thanks @Julz

The strategy so far has been to consider Open Active physical activity data as a subset of the kind of data exchanged via Open Referral standard APIs. So that brings in your second and third bullet points on cultural and social activity, the organisations providing those activities and where they take place.

London Sport already provides an Open Referral UK compliant feed of its OpenActive physical activity data from its “Open Session” platform. See the “Open Sessions” entry on our dashboard.

Do join the DLUHC project’s Show & Tells to stay updated on their work and give your feedback.

Cheers. Can you include Sportsuite open active data feed?

Its an equivalent to Open Sessions, they have been part of the ODI process since the start of open active, and the only one that does not need to use the IMIN API.

Coincidentally I have been taking with Chris at London Sport today about their new “Community Club Data Standard” to map sports clubs.

Good to see the dataset solution moving closer together. I will have a look at the show and tells too. Ta!

If Sportsuit provides a transformation to the Open Referral UK format in the same way as London Sport has, we’ll add it to the Dashboard.

This is the first Show & Tell from the project on the case and strategy for scaling adoption of Open Referral UK.

The second Show and Tell for the Local Digital ‘Scaling the Adoption of Open Referral UK’ project is on Thursday this week (2 November 2023) from 13.30 to 14.15. The team will be sharing some emerging ideas based on the research so far as we decide what the best bets are for the second half of the work.

If you missed the first Show and Tell you can view the recording.

You can join the project’s mailing list here.

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The conclusions and recommendations from this work for the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities will be presented in a Show & Tell on Thursday 14 December at 13:30 GMT.

If you’re not already on the list to request an invitation, please add your details to the Get involved page here.

A recording of the presentation will be added to the Show & Tells page which has recordings of prior ones on:

  • Project goals
  • Barriers to adoption
  • Benefits model

The final Show and Tell describing the findings of this work and recommendations to the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities is now online.

All Show and Tells are on the project’s Show & Tells page.

I am (genuinely) delighted to say that the UK government has today announced “An initial fund of £600k will be allocated to drive further adoption and to set up a Cross-Government Advisory Group.”

This is for a three year period and it adopts recommendations from the work described in this thread.

See the blog Driving adoption of Open Referral UK to deliver millions in annual savings for councils for details.

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