About the community resource directory data problem…
Over the past few years I’ve been thinking about what I call, wonkily, ‘the community resource directory data problem’ — by which I mean: information about the services that exist in a community, and the challenges posed by the collection and circulation of this information.
This problem originally caught my attention while working at Bread for the City, where I blogged about it every so often, and eventually convened and facilitated a series of conversations about ways we might address the problem in the District of Columbia.
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to dig deeper. Thanks in part to a fellowship with Provisions Library, I’ve explored a bit of the history of community resource directories and the associated field of “information and referral,” and hashed out a framework for a new approach to the production and circulation of this information. Specifically, I’m proposing that the technology now makes it possible for community resource directory data to be managed as a commons–a resource that is shared by those who use it–and that for us to realize this potential, we will need to design new cooperative solutions.
This week, Code for America is publishing their book about the future of open data, and I’m excited to have a chapter in there called “Towards a Community Data Commons.” In this essay, I consider the community resource directory data challenge from an institutional perspective, and sketch out the parameters of a commons-based cooperative solution. Here, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some accompanying materials that weren’t able to fit into the book, including an annotated version of the paper and an accompanying memo that considers the various layers of technology involved and a possible tactical path forward.
The stakes are high and many: helping people access the resources they need, yes, and also enabling communities to know themselves and create new ways to apply that knowledge.
I’m actively working on this issue, cooking up some plans and looking for collaborators. If you’re interested in discussing this stuff, let’s be in touch!