Everyone appreciates being recognized for doing good work. If a raise or a promotion aren't in the cards, having a couple of paragraphs praising your work appear on the White House's official blog isn't too shabby a substitute. It's even more remarkable if the work garnering attention is done by a 23-year-old working in a town of 5,000 people.

This is the reality for Dustin Haisler, the CIO of Manor, Texas, who is gaining recognition as an innovator in local government. Last year, Haisler earned praise (including some from this magazine) for dispersing inexpensive Quick Response (QR) codes - two-dimensional bar codes - all over Manor. When QR codes are read by mobile phones with the appropriate free software, users are directed to a Web site that has more information about the tagged object.

But it was one of Haisler's newer endeavors, a Web platform called Manor Labs, that President Barack Obama's tech team found appealing. Manor Labs, which launched in late October, is a Web portal where citizens can submit ideas to improve their city. From conception to (possibly) reality, every decision city officials make about a submitted idea is put in plain sight. At the same time, users can participate in and affect an idea's development. For a president who is trying to deliver on promises of government transparency, it's easy to see why the White House is giving Manor Labs a closer look.

Turning Ideas Into Solutions

Haisler likes to describe Manor Labs as an open innovation portal. "Instead of just taking ideas," he said, "we're taking those ideas and turning them into actual solutions off the platform."

Manor Labs features elements of social media sites like Facebook, GovLoop and Digg, where users promote or bury items submitted by others. Manor Labs depends on user-submitted ideas. When users register with Manor Labs - something anyone, anywhere can do - they're given 25,000 "Innobucks," a virtual currency for use on the site. Various activities, such as commenting, voting or submitting an idea, earn users more Innobucks. If users earn enough, they can shop at the Manor Labs store for prizes like a Police Department T-shirt or even buy the right to have a week named after them.

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Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.