It’s not often that one is able to use the words ‘research and development’ when describing new initiatives within their local government. If you’re one of the lucky 6,500 people living in Manor, Texas, research and development just entered a new era. This small community on the outskirts of Austin has partnered with Stanford University’s Peace Dot Project to create Manor Labs, the official research and development division of the City of Manor.
Addressing its citizens as innovators, Manor Labs is best described as a citizen-powered think tank. The initiative is reaching out to the public for ideas about how the city can better serve everyone. This think tank isn’t capped at 6,500; anyone wishing to contribute ideas need merely register with the site. And not all users are required to submit ideas. In fact, Manor Labs hopes to engage citizens on multiple levels by allowing anyone to view submitted ideas, and allowing registered users to review and comment on each others ideas.
The City of Manor has taken a genuine stance with respect to the ideas being generated. A strategic process has been developed to ensure that no idea goes unrecognized. All submitted ideas first enter an incubation stage. During incubation, the idea is posted for public commenting and voting. As the idea gains page views and promotions through the voting process, it may eventually be propelled into the next stage: validation. Once the idea has been ‘validated’ by the public, a department head within the City will review the idea. He or she takes into account the cost and sustainability of the idea, and if determined a worthy endeavor, will advance the idea to the emergence stage. In this stage, a pilot project will be discussed as well as ways of implementing the idea. If the City deems the idea feasible, the initial brainstormer will be rewarded and the idea will be implemented. If the idea is aborted, Manor Labs will provide a full debrief as to why the idea was determined unfeasible.
It’s clear from this process that the City of Manor has great appreciation and respect for the ideas and feedback of its citizens. And residents are responding, to date over 500 people have registered with the site and seven ideas have already entered the emerging stage. What are some of the current ideas being tossed around in Manor Labs? The top-rated idea as of writing, is a request to convert all GIS maps to Google Earth formats to make them more accessible for the public. Other ideas include creating a mobile version of the City of Manor website and instituting ticket reminders that would notify citizens of unpaid fines and tickets in efforts to minimize the amount of warrants issued and the burden on the court system.
Check out the Manor Labs website here: http://www.manorlabs.org/