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Innovation

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. 

Innovation Toolkit

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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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:

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.

If you’re looking to learn more about approaches your organization can take to improve customer experience, use this “CX Cookbook” published by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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. 

Lightbulb illuminated

Prioritize innovation through leadership support

Paint and palette

Empower employees to be creative

Lock opened up

Remove barriers to effectiveness

Pair of Dice

Make small bets on new ideas, iterate and learn from failure

Square scaled to a different size

Scale successful initiatives and projects

Lighthouse shining out the side

Value external expertise, creative thinking and diversity of thought

Two speech bubbles

Center on the customer experience

Puzzle pieces being put together

Align innovative efforts with strategic goals

Briefcase

Demonstrate strong business practices

Create a culture of change

Resources

From curing diseases to helping launch the internet, the federal government has a history of innovation that has improved the lives of Americans and advanced societal interests. Despite this legacy, outdated systems, rules and processes hinder innovation at a time when government must grapple with a wide array of critical and complex 21st-century challenges.

Creating a productive working relationship between lawyers and innovators can be a key ingredient to the success of new innovations. This guide provides lawyers and clients with guiding questions and tenets to forge a strong relationship.

Fellowship programs can be a key source of talent for innovative and entrepreneurial individuals with technical expertise. This guide highlights some of the fellowship programs well aligned with federal innovation efforts.

Amid the response to COVID-19, federal agencies are moving quickly to fill the jobs needed to address new and emerging challenges. In Spring 2020, the Partnership hosted two recruiting and hiring sessions to support agencies as they sought to rapidly fill mission critical roles. This guide captures strategies and insights shared by experts at those sessions—many of which are relevant to hiring amid the pandemic and in normal operations.

Innovation Research Reports

Leading with Experience
A Framework for Customer-Focused Leadership in Government

Good leadership enables our government to more effectively respond to public needs. The Partnership for Public Service and Maximus Federal address how individual leaders can improve the federal customer experience and recommend government-wide actions agencies can take to create a culture of customer-focused leadership.

Our country, facing a deadly pandemic, economic turmoil and a host of serious domestic and international challenges, needs a federal government that is capable of dealing with our current problems and those looming on the horizon.    This requires rebuilding and revitalizing our government, the nation’s most important democratic institution, by improving federal leadership, supporting…

Amid a global pandemic, federal agencies have continued to deliver critical services to the American public. For a deeper look at how our government has forged innovative solutions to address the COVID-19 crisis, read our “bright spots” case studies.

The federal landscape is expected to change dramatically in the next decade as the power and capacity of technology advance, more data becomes available and the demands on federal employees grow and shift. With the U.S. population projected to expand by more than 20 million people in the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, government must evolve to keep up.

In this report, the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government have worked to help you prepare for this coming change. Our first research brief on this topic details the experiences of four organizations exploring the potential of AI.

In this white paper the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government explore the impact AI is likely to have on federal work and the federal workforce.

In “More Than Meets AI Part II,” the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government offer insights for federal agencies to help them incorporate AI into their organization’s operations responsibly and transparently.

The Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton discovered how agencies are teaming with industry and academia to make our nation stronger, safer and more prosperous.

Federal employees with experience in innovation offer strategies to advance innovative ideas in government.

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.  

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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. 

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Our Experts

Mark Lerner
Senior Manager, Technology & Innovation

Header photo credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)