Our 2019 Tool Fund Grantee Profile series shines a light on individuals and organizations that are building open source tooling for reproducible research using the Frictionless Data specifications and software.

Greg Bloom and Shelby Switzer

Tool Fund Grantee - Open Referral

Greg Bloom and Shelby Switzer from Open Referral

This grantee profile features Greg Bloom & Shelby Switzer for our series of Frictionless Data Tool Fund posts, written to shine a light on Frictionless Data’s Tool Fund grantees, their work and to let our technical community know how they can get involved.

Meet Greg, Shelby, and Open Referral

Shelby Switzer and Greg Bloom work with Open Referral, which develops data standards and open source tools for health, human, and social services. For the Tool Fund, they will be building out datapackage support for all their interfaces, from the open source tools that transform and validate human services data to the Human Services API Specification. Greg is the founder of the Open Referral Initiative, and has experience in nonprofit communications, cooperative development, and community organizing. Shelby is a long-time civic tech contributor, and will be the lead developer on this project.

I got my start in tech through civic tech and open data. After a variety of software development and API product management roles in my career, including most recently leading the API and integrations team at a healthcare technology company, I’ve returned to my roots to write about and contribute to open source, community-focused tech projects full-time. - Shelby

Open Referral develops data standards and open platforms that make it easy to share and find information about community resources – i.e. the health, human, and social services available to people in need. The Open Referral Initiative is developing the Human Services Data Toolkit – a suite of open source data management tools that facilitate transformation, validation, and publication of standardized data about health, human, and social services. By leveraging the JSON datapackage specification across each of these components, we can provide a comprehensive approach to frictionless data management of information about any kind of community resources provisioned by governments, charity, and civic institutions.

Shelby, how did you hear about Frictionless Data?

I think I heard about Frictionless Data first over the past year or two just through working with Open Referral. I was doing research on what tools already existed out there for data munging and CSV processing, to help inform my own with open data and specifically diverse sets of community resource data. First impressions? I thought it was awesome, and wanted to explore more to figure out how to incorporate some of FD’s specs and tools into my own pipelines.

What specific issues are you looking to address with the Tool Fund grant?

I’m definitely excited about building out datapackage support for all our interfaces, from the open source tools that transform and validate human services data to the Human Services API Specification. This will help us plug-and-play tools much more efficiently to build pipelines customized to each deployment. A lot of our work is in Ruby, JavaScript, and PHP, so I think this will be an opportunity to help contribute some tools in those languages to the Frictionless Data ecosystem, for example a Ruby library for generating datapackages given an input directory or a library for generating a SQL Server database from a datapackage. We want to do more with our existing data pipeline tools, especially to link them together using the datapackage spec as a common exchange format. We’re also about to use some of these tools in specific projects in the US validating and federating community resource data sets, and we hoped that applying for a tool grant might help us have the runway to iterate on tool improvements based on what we learn from these deployments.

How can the open data, open source, community engage with the work you are doing around Frictionless Data and the Human Data Services Toolkit?

Check out our github org: https://github.com/openreferral/

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