The story of the Partnership begins with Samuel J. Heyman. Inspired by President Kennedy’s call to serve, Heyman joined the Justice Department after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1963, eventually rising to become an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut. Following his father’s death in 1968, Heyman left government to run his family’s business.
But his deep faith in the value of public service never wavered. As the new millennium dawned, Heyman sought to address what he saw as the most urgent challenge facing our government: a lack of critical young talent choosing to enter the federal workforce—just as he had nearly three decades earlier.
To address this issue, Heyman wanted to initiate a renewed call to serve that would inspire the next generation to public service, restore pride in federal work and enable government to meet the challenges of the 21st century. “The future of our nation quite simply depends on the quality of our government,” he said.
Heyman planned to launch a new nonprofit organization to make his vision a reality. But he first needed someone to head up this work.
Heyman found that person in Max Stier, an accomplished leader who had learned about government from the inside by clerking for a Supreme Court justice, working for a congressman and serving in a large federal agency.
Stier’s expertise and fierce dedication to public service transformed the Partnership from a scrappy startup to the only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to building a better government and a stronger democracy.
As the Partnership’s president and CEO, Stier has spent more than 20 years growing the Partnership’s budget, portfolio and profile, elevating the organization as a well-recognized authority on federal management and workforce issues in the eyes of popular, political, academic, government, nonprofit and private sector audiences. In his book, “The Fifth Risk,” author Michael Lewis indeed surmised that Stier was perhaps “the American with the greatest understanding of how the U.S. government actually worked.”
This steadfast entrepreneurial spirit—as well as the work of Mrs. Heyman and Jennifer Millstone, who carry on Sam’s legacy through their continued support and service on our board of directors—has enabled the Partnership to continually break new ground and make an impact.
Early flagship initiatives like the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals®, the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings and the Call to Serve network—as well as the organization’s support for critical workforce legislation—continue to shine a spotlight on exceptional public servants, create new paths to federal service for students and recent graduates, and hold agencies accountable for creating healthy workplaces and a good employee experience.
In our second decade, we launched leadership development programs that provide federal employees working across government with the skills to lead at their agencies. Soon, premier programs like the Excellence in Government Fellows program complemented an extensive set of federal networks that enable communities of government leaders to share best practices to address common challenges in their respective fields.
This period also saw us develop a wide-ranging research agenda that has generated critical insights, forward-thinking solutions and actionable recommendations that help government better serve the public. We also championed landmark legislation and launched groundbreaking initiatives for political appointees that have helped transform the presidential transition process. In 2016, we created the Center for Presidential Transition®, the premier nonpartisan resource for presidential candidates and their teams, incoming senior leaders, career officials and members of Congress as they prepare to lay the groundwork for a new administration or a president’s second term.
Today, the Partnership continues to expand its horizons to help government reach its full potential, pioneering new initiatives that serve federal communities outside the Washington, D.C., area, and helping Congress become a stronger and more capable institution for the people it serves.
This work—and more—has made the Partnership a nationally recognized organization whose research and programming has informed critical government management issues—from talent acquisition, the federal customer experience and employee engagement to innovation and technology modernization, presidential transitions and congressional oversight.
But our work has only just begun. To build a better government and a stronger democracy, we will continue to reimagine how government works so it can solve today’s problems and be better prepared to face tomorrow.Explore Our Impact
Highlights from our history of building a better government
Explore our interactive timeline to learn how we have improved the way government works. Navigate to a specific year using the drop-down menu or arrows.
- Samuel J. Heyman and Ronnie F. Heyman found the Partnership for Public Service as the only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to building a more effective federal government. In its early years, the organization worked to fulfill this mission by inspiring mission-critical talent to serve in government and transforming the systems and processes that make government work.
The nation’s preeminent awards program for public servants is created: the annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® program. Known as the “Oscars” of government service, the Sammies have honored over 660 federal employees and now also recognize a Spirit of Service Award winner—an individual working outside the public sector who contributes significantly to the public good. In 2020, our first virtual Sammies program drew more than 300,000 views.
Call to Serve is created in collaboration with the Office of Personnel Management. It is the only nationwide network of colleges and universities focused solely on promoting federal service and recruiting the next generation of public servants. Since 2002, the program has worked with more than 700 colleges and universities to help agencies identify young talent and provide students and recent graduates with a better understanding of government work.
“I think what the Partnership is doing is so important because there is a barrier to be able to get an internship in government. Going directly to college campuses and providing that entryway is great.”—Lyndsey Gallagher, former Call to Serve Innovation Internship Program participant
Congress adopts the Partnership’s recommendation to create the chief human capital officer position. The Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002 helps federal leaders prioritize workforce issues, requiring 24 agencies to create a senior-level CHCO position that will help agency heads and other officials recruit, develop and train employees, and create effective human resources strategies.
Congress enacts into law the Partnership’s recommendation that agencies conduct an annual employee survey. Administered by the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is the government’s main tool to measure employees’ perceptions of their workplace and work experience. In 2020, over 620,000 executive branch employees completed the survey.
The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings launch. The rankings are the most comprehensive and authoritative rating of employee engagement in the federal government, providing agency leaders, Congress and the public with critical insights into how public servants view their jobs and workplaces. Read our impact story and 15th anniversary report to learn how the Best Places to Work rankings continue to drive better performance across government.
The Government After Katrina project launches with support from the Ford Foundation. The initiative features a website outlining public sector management lessons from the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, promotes messages about the importance of effective government and includes several events hosted with leaders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These efforts help inform future Partnership research and programs focused on the importance of cultivating cross-sector engagement, developing effective workforce leadership, and identifying and recruiting critical talent.
The Annenberg Leadership Institute and Annenberg Speakers Bureau launch with support from the Annenberg Foundation. The speakers bureau sends federal employees to college campuses and other student venues to promote public service and raise awareness of federal job opportunities. The leadership institute aims to boost the skills of midlevel managers and enables teams of fellows to address their agencies’ real-life management and operational challenges.
The first presidential transition planning conference convenes senior presidential campaign representatives, members of the outgoing Bush administration, and other agency and nonprofit leaders. The meeting lays the groundwork for “Ready to Govern,” a report that recommends several preelection transition reforms aimed at ensuring smooth transfers of power. Similar meetings in 2012, 2016 and 2020—and the enactment of several of these transition reforms—set a new norm for presidential candidates and their teams to initiate transition planning earlier in the election cycle.
“It is time to better enable new presidents to get their full team in place as quickly as possible. It will not be easy, but we must strive to change the status quo. This will require … creating a new set of goals and expectations that set a higher standard for all involved—the presidential candidates, the outgoing administration, a president-elect and then [the] new administration, and the Senate.” —“Ready to Govern: Improving the Presidential Transition,” January 2010
The Partnership acquires the Excellence in Government Fellows program, the Strategic Advisors to Government Executives network and Public Service Recognition Week from the Council for Excellence in Government. The EIG program is the premier leadership development course for career civil servants working at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels; the SAGE network is composed of more than 120 former political and career executives supporting government leaders; and PSRW remains the largest annual celebration of the nation’s federal, state, county, local and tribal government employees. Read our impact story about the EIG program.
President Biden marks Public Service Recognition Week 2021 and thanks the Partnership for its work to honor public servants.
Two newly formed networks—the Innovators Roundtable and the Federal Human Capital Collaborative—bring communities of federal leaders and practitioners together to share best practices to address critical issues in their respective fields. Six other federal networks are created in succeeding years, including the Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Management Roundtable and the General Counsel Exchange. Eleven years later, the networks enable agency leaders to develop guidelines and strategies for addressing the unprecedented management challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many thanks to the Partnership for Public Service for facilitating this useful and practical forum for agency general counsels to exchange experience, ideas and information during this most extraordinary time.”—Gretchen Jacobs, general counsel for the U.S. Access Board
Tom A. Bernstein, co-founder of Chelsea Piers, L.P., head of the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Human Freedom Advisory Council and former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., becomes chairman of the Partnership’s board of directors. Under his watch, the Partnership doubles in size and expands its research portfolio, broadens its network of funders, launches new groundbreaking centers and initiatives, and expands its national profile as the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to building a better government and a stronger democracy.
“Tom Bernstein’s energy, enthusiasm and steady guidance have taken the Partnership’s work to new heights. The Partnership would not be where it is today without his outstanding counsel and support.” – Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service
A six-year, multimillion dollar initiative focused on leadership development and employee engagement at the Department of Education launches with support from several foundations. Administered from 2010-2015, the program reaches about 2,000 employees—roughly one-third of the agency’s workforce—and leads to drastically improved employee satisfaction and performance. A multiyear program produces similar results at the Department of Labor, reaching more than 3,500 leaders between 2013 and 2018.
“Our work with the Partnership has helped us along the critically important path of transforming Education’s culture into one that is more results-driven, innovative and inclusive.”—Arne Duncan, former secretary of the Department of Education
New research and transition work informs the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act, a landmark law that requires transition planning to begin well before a presidential election. The act requires the General Services Administration to provide office space and other support services to transition teams following the party nominating conventions. In 2015, the Partnership also champions the Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Mike Leavitt Presidential Transitions Act, which requires agencies to place a senior career employee in charge of overseeing transition activities at least six months before Election Day.
Ready to Govern® launches. Composed of a series of 90-minute onboarding sessions, the program helps political appointees manage their agencies and successfully navigate a large federal organization. Courses—led by a bipartisan group of current or former political appointees and career executives—include everything from federal ethics laws and working with the White House to understanding the federal budget process. More than 1,500 political leaders have participated in Ready to Govern. Read our impact story about the program.
New research and advocacy inform two critical civil service reforms: President Obama’s executive order aiming to improve how government hires, recruits and trains members of the Senior Executive Service; and the Competitive Service Act, a law Congress passes in early 2016 that allows agencies to share information about qualified job applicants and more easily fill mission-critical positions. Learn more about our wide-ranging research products.
The Center for Presidential Transition® launches, immediately becoming the premier nonpartisan resource for presidential candidates and their teams as they prepare to begin a new administration or a president’s second term. Soon after its founding, the center creates a first-of-its-kind political appointee tracker with The Washington Post to chart the status of Senate-confirmed appointees and hold administrations and Congress accountable for filling critical positions.
“When I served as White House chief of staff, there was no playbook for presidential transitions. The Center has effectively filled that void by identifying best practices and providing critically needed support to a broad array of stakeholders.” –Josh Bolten, former chief of staff for President George W. Bush
“We couldn’t walk into the White House on Jan. 21 and say, ‘What are we going to do?’ Starting the transition process early was critical—and the Center helped us do it.” –Melody Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama“The Partnership for Public Service, over the past decade, has become perhaps the world’s expert on U.S. presidential transitions.”—Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair
New research and programming help elevate the customer experience as a key focus area for Congress and federal agencies. Leaders from the public and private sectors participate in annual customer experience summits, agency leaders join customer experience roundtables to share best practices and solutions, customer experience profiles provide data and insights on how customers experience federal services, and a new report, “Government for the People,” offers the first comprehensive analysis of the federal customer experience. These efforts lay the groundwork for our ongoing advocacy of new customer experience legislation.
“As the Office of Management and Budget was working to frame the  president’s management agenda, the Partnership’s customer experience conference provided a critical opportunity to hear from leaders from both the public and private sectors. The discussion directly guided our efforts to make improving services to citizens a centerpiece of the president’s management agenda.”—Mark Bussow, Performance Team Lead, Office of Management and Budget
Partnership President and CEO Max Stier appears on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to discuss the political appointments process and the number of key leadership vacancies across government. Michael Lewis releases “The Fifth Risk”—a book that documents mismanagement at the departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Energy in the wake of the Obama-Trump transition and profiles several unsung public servants to demonstrate the critical role government plays in protecting our safety and well-being. Lewis features the Partnership—its mission, Service to America Medals program, transition work and more—to underscore the need for a deeper public appreciation of government.
“By the fall of 2016, Max Stier might have been the American with the greatest understanding of how the U.S. government actually worked.” –Michael Lewis, “The Fifth Risk”
A newly created research and program portfolio examines how emerging technologies and artificial intelligence can support federal operations. A year later, the AI Federal Leadership Cohort launches in collaboration with Microsoft, Google and the Ford Foundation. The program prepares members of the Senior Executive Service to incorporate AI technology into the workplace. The newest cohort focuses on leveraging new technology to shape the future of government work after COVID-19.
“I have started conversations with my management team and boss about AI— specifically about getting more education on AI and identifying opportunities to incorporate AI for our team and the organization as a whole.” –former AI Federal Leadership cohort participant
A new, five-year strategic plan focuses on strengthening federal leadership—defined as senior career civil servants, political appointees, White House officials and members of Congress. A new Public Service Leadership Model frames and propels these efforts by setting enhanced standards for effective federal leadership.
The Partnership’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council is formed to work on reducing the institutional factors that inadvertently create barriers to inclusivity, and pens the DEI Commitment Statement, a North Star for efforts to create a healthy workplace. In the federal space, related work brings together key federal stakeholders who share leading DEI practices and helps agencies embed DEI principles into talent management practices, hiring strategies and leadership programs.
Partnership West launches to support federal employees working outside the Washington, D.C., area. Focusing its work in California—home to the largest regional population of federal workers outside the Beltway—the initiative helps agencies fill critical talent gaps, convenes cross-sector leaders to share best practices and common challenges around timely issues, and provides leadership training for federal employees through the Public Service Leadership Circle.
Amid a global pandemic and fierce disputes over the 2020 election results that delayed federal transition support for President-elect Joe Biden, the Center for Presidential Transition® prepares the incoming administration, members of the Trump team, career agency officials and potential political appointees to execute a successful transfer of power. The center creates over 1,000 pages of new resources—including vetting guides and agency organizational charts—convenes key stakeholders at a transition management conference, develops a new digital resource for potential appointees called Ready to Serve and launches Transition Lab, a new podcast offering a behind-the-scenes look at presidential transitions. This work enables the Biden administration to design and implement one of the most well-planned transitions in U.S. history—as well as the nation’s first virtual transition—despite unprecedented challenges.
“I cannot imagine doing a presidential transition in the modern era without the Partnership. If a transition team itself had to assemble the information that the Partnership provides to every presidential transition, it would turn an incredibly difficult job into a complete nightmare. What the Partnership does is incredibly worthwhile.” – Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the 2020 Biden-Harris transition team
CapitolStrong.org launches in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The new microsite enables a diverse group of civil society organizations working to strengthen Congress to share information, promote one another’s resources and work together to honor and support congressional employees at all levels. The Library of Congress included CapitolStrong.org—and the work of this coalition to support the Capitol Hill community—in historical records intended to document the Jan. 6 attack and its aftermath.
The Public Service Leadership Institute launches as the preeminent source of programs, policies and perspectives for federal leaders. Building on our leadership work with tens of thousands of public servants, the institute works to unify government around a single leadership standard, develop federal leaders at all levels and amplify the importance of public service leadership through training programs, convenings, research and commentary. The institute is also home to the Public Service Leadership Model and the Government Advisory Leadership Council, a group of leaders in the corporate, nonprofit, federal and academic sectors. Watch the launch event or listen to our podcast episode on the institute.
“Through this institute, we can help foster the kinds of leaders we need in government—those who are guided by a deep commitment to the public good and stewardship of the public trust.” – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Board of Directors
Our elected Board of Directors serves as volunteers and brings a diverse set of experiences to the Partnership. The Board guides our strategic priorities and helps to ensure our financial health by providing fiscal oversight and support of fundraising efforts.
Board Members Emeriti
Since our inception, the Partnership has enjoyed the support and guidance of many exceptional and dynamic leaders. Their counsel and stewardship have been invaluable to our growth, evolution and impact. We are grateful for their dedication and contributions to our mission and proud of what they continue to do for our country.
- Thad Allen
- Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) and Senior Executive Advisor, Booz Allen Hamilton
- John Bridgeland
- President and CEO, Civic Enterprises and Vice Chairman, Service Year Alliance
- Beth Brooke-Marciniak
- Former Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, Ernst & Young LLP
- Sheila Burke
- Senior Public Policy Advisor, Baker Donelson Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
- Richard Danzig
- Senior Advisor, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Chair, Advisory Panel for Idaho National Laboratories' Innovation Center, and Member, Board of Trustees, RAND Corporation
- Tom Davis
- Partner, Holland & Knight
- Jonathan Fanton
- President Emeritus, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- David Gergen
- Senior Political Analyst, CNN and Professor of public service and founding director of the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
- Larry Heyman
- CEO, The Heyman Enterprise
- Lloyd W. Howell Jr.
- Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Booz Allen Hamilton
- Robert Ingram
- General Partner, Hatteras Venture Partners and Chariman, Board of Directors, Viamet Pharmaceuticals
- Nancy Killefer
- Board of Directors, Cardinal Health and Member, Board of Directors, Computer Sciences Corporation
- James Loy
- Senior Counselor, The Cohen Group and Member, Board of Trustees, Lockheed Martin
- Robert A. McDonald
- Former Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs and Retired Chairman, President and CEO, The Procter & Gamble Company
- Tom Nides
- United States Ambassador to Israel
- Peter Orszag
- CEO, Financial Advisory, Lazard Freres & Co LLC
- Ruth Porat
- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Alphabet and Google
- Nancy Reardon
Former Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer,
Campbell Soup Company
- Susan Rice
- Visiting Distinguished Research Fellow, School of International Service, American University, Former U.S. National Security Advisor and Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
- Scott Rutherford
Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
- David Walker
- Senior Strategic Advisor, PricewaterhouseCoopers