For more than 20 years, the Partnership has helped build a better government and a stronger democracy.
We recognize exceptional federal employees at the nation’s preeminent awards program for public servants, the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® , hold federal agencies accountable for creating healthy and productive workplaces through the most authoritative rating of employee engagement in the federal government—the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings—and help presidential candidates, their teams, career and political leaders, and members of Congress lay the groundwork for a new administration or a president’s second term through our Center for Presidential Transition®.
We also administer a range of fellowship and internship programs that enable government to fill critical talent gaps, offer an extensive portfolio of leadership development courses that help federal employees become more effective leaders who drive change at their agencies, champion key federal management reforms in Congress and more.
Collectively, this work has helped the public institution most vital to our democracy—the federal government—solve pressing national challenges and more effectively serve our diverse nation.
Read our annual impact reports to learn more about our accomplishments.
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 Alliance for Congress launched to help our nation’s legislative branch work more effectively and meet the diverse needs of our country. Working collaboratively with other organizations and individuals, the alliance aims to help Congress pass critical legislation, conduct better oversight of the federal government, develop and recognize the congressional workforce, and rebuild public trust in one of our most important democratic institutions.