The Opportunity-based Model

The primary unit of information about social services is the “opportunity.” This is different than most service databases, which are organization-based, where the most important information given to a consumer is that of the organization itself.

Rather than focusing on what the organization does at a high level, we are primarily interested in what specifically a person can do or get at the organization, and we organize these things into atomic units of information that we call “opportunities.”

We define an opportunity as:

An action-oriented sentence, written in the second-person, that clearly communicates value.

Here are some examples of opportunities at the organization HealthRIGHT 360 (formerly: Haight Ashbury Free Clinics – Walden House):

  • Enroll in a program to get help with substance abuse
  • Make an appointment for a medical checkup
  • Get treatment and medicine for HIV
  • Take a workshop to help you find affordable housing
  • Get a physical exam for work or a disability application

Each of these opportunities has associated eligibility criteria, instructions for setting up appointments, and other logistical information. Some of these will be similar across the same organization, while others may vary widely.


The following diagram gives an overview of how each piece of information is connected:

While actual users will not be aware of how the data fits together in the back-end, content collectors and data administrators should be aware of this structure.

Data Objects

Each data object has specific fields that are structured in a consistent way. Click on the links below to explore what information each object holds: