To solve our biggest problems, our government needs to be agile, effective and constantly improving to meet the moment. Federal leaders need to create workplaces with strong cultures of experimentation and provide their teams with the opportunity to innovate. However, recent Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® data shows that just under 67% of public servants feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing their jobs—more than seven points lower than private sector employees.
We work to reverse this trend by conducting research, building community, and engaging with critical stakeholders across the ecosystem to help agencies find new and creative ways to achieve their missions.
As part of this effort, we established the Federal Innovation Council, a group of career federal executives who help us develop a stronger and more robust innovation agenda for government. We also co-chair the Federal Innovators Network to build collaboration between people supportive of and interested in government innovation, including federal employees, contractors, students and more. In addition, we run Gov21, a leadership development course that helps federal innovators use science and data to design programs and make decisions, practice creative problem-solving, and explore resources that support innovative ways to achieve results in government.
Federal innovators use tools and techniques that help agencies more effectively serve the public. The highlighted resources below outline successful and promising innovation practices for federal employees seeking to change the way their organizations operate.
I’m new to to innovation, where do I get started?
Welcome—we’re excited for you to join the federal innovation community. To get started, we recommend that you read these resources which explore innovation in government and how to get started:
- Risk & Reward: A Framework for Federal Innovation
- 13 Key Ways for Federal Agencies to Innovate
- AFWERX Innovation Ecosystem Development Playbook
To connect with innovators across government and participate in events, join the Federal Innovators Network.
How can I be innovative within acquisitions?
Acquisition is often identified as a barrier to innovation, but there is great work happening across government to innovate within acquisitions.
Organizations like the Procurement Innovation Lab at the Department of Homeland Security are providing training and support for innovation within the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Check out their work here.
The Periodic Table of Acquisition Innovation is a government-wide innovation knowledge management tool to identify innovations across the federal acquisition environment. You can view the periodic table here.
Where can I learn more about customer experience approaches?
Designing products and services around the needs of customers and end-users is a critical piece of a responsive and effective government.
The Partnership has extensive resources on customer experience and profiles for each of the high-impact service providers here.
I need to acquire talent, where can I get started?
An organization’s employees are its greatest asset and resource for change.
In Spring 2020, the Partnership hosted an event to discuss which talent acquisition tools could be used to address pressing needs amid COVID-19 response. You can view the resource developed from that event here.
Fellowships are another great source of talent for innovative, entrepreneurial and technical experts. You can find a list of federal fellowships here.I’m having trouble getting my idea approved by my organization’s legal counsel, how can I change my approach?Building a strong relationship with legal counsel in your organization is a key success factor for implementing effective innovations. The Federal Innovation Council, with input from lawyers across government, created this guide for building relationships between lawyers and clients that will help facilitate innovation.Where can I find out more information about public private partnerships?By establishing strong multi-sector partnerships, government organizations can accelerate and expand their impact. In Summer 2020, the Partnership and the Federal Innovation Council hosted a virtual event showcasing successful public private partnerships across government and steps agency leaders should take as they seek to set up new partnerships. For a recap of the event and actionable next steps, read this blog.
I’m starting a software development project, what resources are out there to guide me?
While government has made progress over the past few years in modernizing its technology, it continues to struggle in fully leveraging the technology available. 18-F recently released a de-risking guide to help federal employees address some of the outdated practices associated with software development.
Agile has become a buzzword when talking about all types of technology and it is often difficult to know if an organization is truly using agile development approaches. The Defense Innovation Board developed a guide to help and GAO put together a video series explaining agile in plain terms.
10 Organizational Characteristics that Foster Federal Innovation
Based on research and consultation with a wide range of experts, the Partnership for Public Service and Slalom Consulting identified 10 key characteristics that are critical to building an innovative federal workplace that fosters creative problem-solving and improves institutional performance.
Prioritize innovation through leadership support
Empower employees to be creative
Remove barriers to effectiveness
Make small bets on new ideas, iterate and learn from failure
Scale successful initiatives and projects
Value external expertise, creative thinking and diversity of thought
Center on the customer experience
Align innovative efforts with strategic goals
Demonstrate strong business practices
Create a culture of change
Innovation Research Reports
Gov21: The 21st Century Government Innovation Program
Government leaders must make strategic decisions, design and implement creative solutions, and navigate the federal system to make an impact at their agencies. The 21st Century Government Innovation Program, or Gov21, helps these leaders develop innovative approaches to solving our biggest challenges and making government work better.LEARN MORE AND APPLY
Federal Innovation Council
The Federal Innovation Council is a volunteer advisory organization of federal experts who are committed to fostering innovation in government. We collaborate with the council to overcome barriers to federal innovation, highlight positive examples and case studies of innovation in government, help the next generation of federal leaders find creative solutions to pressing problems and think more innovatively about their work, and forge a more innovative federal culture that meets our nation’s evolving challenges.LEARN MORE
Header photo credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)