Information and referral (or I&R) is a process of assessing and then providing information that enables people to make informed decisions about the community resources available to them. There are thousands of I&R services across the United States and throughout the world. Many of these are comprehensive, community-based programs.

Others are specialized programs targeting particular issues such as aging, child care, and mental health. Although varied and unique, all I&R services adhere to the same standards of service delivery. The overriding goal of I&R is to bring people and services together by providing a source of information that is well organized, community-based and easily accessible.

I&R was first developed as a service in 1921. Many I&R services developed during and after the Second World War to meet the needs of servicemen, veterans and their dependents and an increasingly mobile population.

Growth has continued over the years to meet the changing needs of the population and in recognition of the growth and complexity of social service delivery systems designed to meet individual’s needs.