The platform was design to solve a deeper problem that councils hold a lot of data, in this case community services. Its all stored for lots of good reasons but because our organisations are structured in certain ways, we end up holding lots of the same data in different parts of the organisation.
The Royal borough of Greenwich are currently working on using Outpost in their community directory. The reusable directory product work means we can start building new features and improvements into the platform.
Our goals with the work are
- That Outpost is low-cost and easy to adopt for any local authority
- Increase the number of Local Authorities storing and sharing data in a consistent way
- Create an active community to continue to develop Outpost
The Outpost Model. We wanted to build a new model for service directories that could fix this problem. Open Referral was central to this and we based the architecture around the open referral structure.
- We can give residents more useful results and information when they go looking for things around them
- We can reduce duplication of effort and data within a local authority
- And, longer term, we can connect the data of different regions together and start forming a national, real-time picture of local community service provision. (this is my favourite one!)
- (and eventually I will get a t-shirt with Outpost on it)
You can view a video demo and some of the Q&A from our last show and tell.
Outpost is a service management system, its built around two user types.
Admins and Service providers. Each has their own view of the admin system.
- diff viewer to compare versions
- approval based workflow
- notes and watch functionality
Labels can be assigned to services and users to help group and manage them
Manage organisations, locations, taxonomies, feedback, labels
Create custom fields
- you can also choose whether you want the fields to be visible to service owners and if its exposed in the API.
Outpost is also an oAuth provider which could be used to build a network of applications for admins and service providers.
Ofsted feed integration
Outpost has access to an ofsted feed client which transforms the ofsted feed into a format outpost can use. It then creates linked services.
From the feed admins can create services, amend existing ones when changes come through and archive services when they’re taken out of the ofsted feed. IIRC you can automate this process too but I didn’t work on the project until right at the very end so I’m not familiar with that part.
We run a separate API application built in Express with its own Mongo database. The database only contains the public information and data is stored in the Open referral format.
A quick start directory application. Its a react application thats built specifically to work with Outpost and the Outpost API. You can see a live demo here. It can be themed and extended or used as a base to create something more elaborate. I can see it fitting in very nicely with eleventy, nextjs or gatsby.
We (TPXImpact formerly FutureGov) have created a few directories in the past, Scout is a combination of everything we’d learnt over the years.
Getting it up and running is very simple, you can see the documentation on configuration here currently.
(I’d like to create a ‘Create your own Scout’ application at some point that generates the config file and theme for you to make it even quicker. This ties in nicely with the work we’re doing with Greenwich to make Outpost easy to set-up without any developer input.)
Residents can do all the basics.
- Search by keyword and location
- Filter by category and sub-category
- Filter by Accessibility, Suitability, SEND needs, days the service is open, age, and the most popular - is it free!
- View individual service information
- Pin services which can then be emailed or printed
- Leave feedback on a service - this takes them to a form in Outpost
- Register/Login to their Outpost account to manage their service