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Open Referral

The Open Referral Initiative develops data standards and open platforms that make it easy to share and find information about community resources. Learn more about the initiative at


The Open Referral initiative defines two standards - the Human Services Data Specification and the Human Services Data API.

Human Services Data Specification defines a minimal set of data for publishing machine-readable directory information about health, human, and social services; their locations and accessibility details; and the organizations that provide them. Read the spec here.

The Human Services Data API specification builds upon HSDS.

A detailed FAQ about the project is found here, and additional information about the Open Referral Initiative is available at


The Human Services Data Specification and its documentation are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license.

We encourage you to use an open license for any data you publish using the specification.

Earlier versions were licensed under CC0.

Building the documentation


Any change pushed to the master branch on GitHub will be built and pushed to automatically by ReadTheDocs. Build info is found at

Other branches are not built automatically, but can be configured by admins of the 'openreferral' project on ReadTheDocs, on this page -

Building locally

Assuming a UNIX-based system with Python 3 installed, set up an environment:

python3 -m venv .ve    
source .ve/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt

Then pull in the submodule for the API documentation.

git submodule init
git submodule update

The update command should be re-run whenever there are updates to the api-specification repository.

To build the docs:

cd docs
make dirhtml

You can also use sphinx-autobuild to have an auto-refreshing local build.

pip install sphinx-autobuild
cd docs
sphinx-autobuild . _build


The Human Services Data Specification - a data exchange format developed by the Open Referral Initiative





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