Where every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward-republic, or of some of the higher ones, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day.
The concept that citizens should have more regular impact on civic affairs is clearly not a new one. Regular city council meetings are opportunities for citizens to show up and make themselves heard. The challenge with these meetings is actually finding time on the calendar, and waiting through numerous other discussions before your particular concern is addressed. It is tough to schedule the time, it is tough to enlist support from others, and it is tough to gain insight from the larger population.
Enter Gov 2.0. What is that? Gov 2.0 covers several initiatives, generally related to increasing access, transparency and collaboration. Here’s how the Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy defines it:
Enhancing citizen participation in decision-making
Seems pretty consistent with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts, doesn’t it? But unlike a couple centuries ago, we have today a powerful array of technology to let government and citizens collaborate.
With that as background, let’s see how the City of Manor is working with its citizens on innovation.
Manor Labs: Collaborative R&D
Working with Spigit, Dustin Haisler, the CIO for Manor, Texas, has established Manor Labs. Manor Labs is the official research and development division of the City of Manor, located a half hour outside Austin. In an interview with GovFresh.com, Dustin described his interest in web 2.0 technologies:
What excites me about Gov 2.0 is its ability to empower and engage citizens in their local, state and federal government agencies. Our citizens can help drive innovation and creativity in government, and Gov 2.0 allows their voice to resonate in agencies across the country. Some of the greatest ideas in the world came from the bottom of the totem pole, and what allowed them to ultimately be successful is the open atmosphere in which they were derived. In my community, we refer to this atmosphere as Gov 2.0.
With the recent launch of its Spigit-powered citizens’ idea platform, Manor is establishing a common space for citizens to share their ideas on how to improve city operations. Ideas are collected based on the different departments of the city: administration, development, information technology, municipal court, police department, public works, utility billing, economic development.
The Austin American-Statesman wrote about the effort recently. Here’s what the city’s police seargent said about it:
Manor police Sgt. Ryan Phipps said Manor Labs will help the department get what it needs, particularly in terms of technology, to better serve the community.
“We’re all very excited about it,” Phipps said. “I think it’s going to open a lot of doors.”
The value here is finding good ideas and engaging the public on a regular basis, rather than every few years during an election cycle. Ever try to communicate an idea to a government agency? How would you go about doing that in a way that lets you continue to do the things that make up your life: family, jobs, pursuits.
The dedicated digital commons for all citizens: town hall meets the Web.
The city is also launching Manor Labs in conjunction with Peace Dot, a Stanford University initiative. Peace Dot, led by BJ Fogg of the Persuasive Technology Lab, seeks to engage citizens globally in finding ideas that promote peace. As Fogg wrote on his blog:
The vision is to innovate persuasive technologies that can bring about world peace in 30 years. This is an ambitious vision, but I believe it is entirely possible.
We’re honored to work with the City of Manor and Peace Dot in a worthy cause.
(Disclosure: I work for Spigit. This post originally appeared @ the Spigit Blog)