Reflections on the Partnership for Public Service’s 20th anniversary
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Reflections on the Partnership for Public Service’s 20th anniversary

September 20, 2021 | Updated on January 8, 2024

Twenty years ago, Samuel and Ronnie Heyman established the Partnership for Public Service amid a national crisis. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was on Capitol Hill preparing to announce the organization’s launch at a breakfast hosted by the two chairmen of the House and Senate government affairs committees when a hijacked airliner hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. News of other attacks followed as I walked back to our downtown office. The Partnership officially launched about a month later, with our country still grappling with the fallout from the deadliest attack on American soil in U.S. history.  

Partnership for Public Service launch invitation.
An invitation for the Partnership’s launch on Sept. 11, 2001.

It was in many ways a fitting, though tragic, founding moment. The 9/11 attacks showed why our work matters. They underscored our country’s need for an effective federal government—one that is equipped with the tools, resources and personnel to prevent and quickly respond to national crises and solve massive challenges—and catalyzed a new call to service. Americans answered that call, serving with renewed urgency as first responders, military service members, diplomatic and national security staff, and more in the face of great adversity. As a result, public trust in government reached its highest point in more than three decades.     

The work we have done

Today, we remain committed to our mission of building a better government and a stronger democracy that serves the diverse needs of our nation.

Our leadership development courses have provided over 29,000 federal employees with the skills they need to drive change and achieve results at their agencies. Our annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings offer the most comprehensive assessment of how  federal public servants view their jobs and have held more than 600 agencies and subcomponents accountable for engaging their employees and motivating increased performance.

Our Center for Presidential Transition has helped transform the process by which presidential candidates and their teams prepare for a new administration or a second term, and our flagship Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® program has recognized the exceptional work of more than 660 federal employees, in turn reigniting public faith in the power of public service.

In addition, we have championed and informed 50 pieces of legislation designed to improve the way government works and we manage a large portfolio of fellowship and internship programs. One of them, Call to Serve, has worked with more than 700 colleges and universities to bring the next generation of public servants into the federal workforce since 2002.

The work we need to do

We are proud of these accomplishments, but know there is more to do. Despite progress in some areas and the efforts of countless public servants, our research suggests that government can do better. In 2020, its overall employee engagement score sat eight points below that of the private sector; its average hiring time for a single employee is nearly 100 days; it lacks young talent, with only 7% of full-time federal employees being under the age of 30; its flawed political appointments process continues to leave too many critical positions vacant; and it remains a widely distrusted institution despite a brief uptick after 9/11.

After 20 years, our mission is more relevant than ever.  

How we will do it

That’s why we continue to explore new ways to help government respond to an ever-evolving set of challenges, launching initiatives that support federal communities working outside the Washington, D.C. area, help Congress more effectively meet our country’s diverse needs, and prepare agency leaders to tackle new cybersecurity challenges and bring emerging technologies into the workplace.

The Partnership for Public Service never stops reimagining how government works so we can solve today’s problems and be better prepared to face tomorrow. For 20 years, we have helped build a better government and a stronger democracy. We will continue to do so for the decades to come. We hope you will join us.

Visit our website to learn more about the Partnership for Public Service and sign up for emails to stay up to date on our work or give to support our programming.

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