Our nation faces an array of critical and complex challenges that Americans expect the government to address, from protecting public health and the environment to caring for veterans, responding to natural disasters and keeping us safe in a dangerous world. Meeting these challenges requires harnessing new, innovative approaches to unleash employee creativity and deliver better results for the American people.

Percentage of employees who feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things

Federal Government

Source: 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

Private Sector

Source: 2018 Mercer | Sirota


Through our research and engagement with critical stakeholders and the innovation community, we are working to increase the adoption and use of proven innovation practices to improve government’s ability to achieve its many important missions. As part of this effort, we established the Federal Innovation Council, an advisory organization of federal experts who are committed to fostering innovation in government. We’ve also established the Federal Innovators Network, a community of innovators and entrepreneurs inside and outside of government that challenges bureaucracy, seeks change that matters and improves government and citizen services. 

Produced in partnership with

Risk and Reward
A Framework for Federal Innovation

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 Despite this legacy, outdated systems, rules and processes hinder innovation at a time when government must grapple with a wide array of critical and complex 21st-century challenges.

In “Risk and Reward: A Framework for Federal Innovation,” the Partnership for Public Service, in collaboration with Slalom Consulting, examined an array of innovative initiatives undertaken by a number of federal organizations. The report also provides a framework for federal agencies to create an innovative environment to better serve the public interest.

Read the report to see the 10 characteristics of innovative government organizationsthat can foster creative problem-solving, deliver operational changes and improve institutional performance.

Download the Report

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 culture that can foster creative problem-solving, deliver operational changes and improve institutional performance.

Prioritize innovation through leadership support

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Innovative organizations:

  • Have leaders who frequently and publicly support innovation as a key priority.
  • Have leaders who back employees and teams experimenting with creative projects.
  • Are clear about their goals and set aside resources to help their employees find innovative ways to meet those goals.

Empower employees to be creative

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Innovative organizations:

  • Empower employees in their day-to-day work, positioning them to identify and implement new ideas.
  • Promote innovation by recognizing and rewarding employees for identifying better ways to do their work.

Remove barriers to effectiveness

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Innovative organizations:

  • Conduct analyses to identify roadblocks to success.
  • Actively and frequently review and revise outdated processes.
  • Implement best-available solutions, including processes and technologies that improve performance.

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

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Innovative organizations:

  • Often test new ideas so they can evaluate what works before spending considerable resources or committing to a particular path.
  • Sunset failed initiatives and learn from the experience.

Scale successful initiatives and projects

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Innovative organizations:

  • Know from experience what steps are necessary to turn successful innovations into scalable, sustainable and effective long-term initiatives.
  • Understand the feasibility of expanding any given project and why past initiatives did not achieve broad adoption.
  • Assign long-term owners to initiatives, consider cost-effectiveness and build business plans early in the process to lay the foundation for future expansion.

Value external expertise, creative thinking and diversity of thought

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Innovative organizations:

  • Leverage expertise from a larger network of individuals and organizations, including other departments, agencies, components and industries.
  • Bring outside expertise to work in government for temporary periods of time.

Center on the customer experience

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Innovative organizations:

  • Center on the customer experience in the development of their organizational practices.
  • Employ design methods, such as human-centered design, to help better understand the challenge at hand and identify an appropriate solution.
  • Coordinate with other agencies to help serve multiple customer needs.

Align innovative efforts with strategic goals

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Innovative organizations:

  • Align innovation initiatives with the organization’s strategic plan and overall mission.
  • Strategically direct resources toward initiatives that best align with broader priorities.

Demonstrate strong business practices

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Innovative organizations:

  • Actively deploy strong project management processes.
  • Make data-driven and evidence-based decisions in an efficient and timely manner, and build accountability mechanisms into projects to ensure that desired outcomes are met.
  • Teach innovators how to build business cases and collect and use data in an effective way.

Create a culture of change

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Innovative organizations:

  • Treat change as an ongoing opportunity for growth, rather than discrete events.
  • Communicate early and often with frontline employees, especially about impending changes.
  • Have leadership that is openly supportive of change and informed risk-taking.


Federal innovators across government are using tools and techniques proven to work in federal organizations. As part of our effort to build a community of federal change makers who can break down individual or agency silos and to facilitate broader adoption of these practices, we compiled the following resources which highlight successful and promising innovation practices.

Read our Frequently Asked Questions

Risk and Reward: A Framework for Federal Innovation

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.

Download (1m)

How to Build an Effective Lawyer-Client Relationship to Foster Innovation

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.

Download (101k)

Federal Government Fellowship Guide

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.

Download (126k)

Talent Acquisition Quick Tips

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.

Download (117k)
Blog Post
Three ways government can create cross-sector engagements that better serve the public

The federal government needs to operate at full capacity to respond successfully to the biggest challenges of our time—from climate change and racial inequity to global health and more. Here are three ways government can help make the most of cross-sector engagements to achieve better outcomes.

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Blog Post
The government should use R&D to solve our biggest societal challenges. Here’s how.

To address our country’s increasingly complex societal problems, the federal government must take bigger and bolder steps to identify, validate and scale solutions, particularly those that are research-based and high-risk, high-reward.

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Blog Post
A new innovation agenda for government

The Partnership’s Federal Innovation Council has developed an agenda to help federal leaders rethink and transform the way government operates and fulfills its mission. Each recommendation is rooted in insights from current federal innovators and focuses on proven ideas that work.

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Blog Post
White House launches artificial intelligence information portal

Last week, the White House launched AI.gov, an information hub for the federal government’s artificial intelligence activities. The website collects the laws, regulations, plans and reports that guide federal AI work; news about AI’s use in the public and private sectors; and information on government’s AI committees and task forces.

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External Resource

The Customer Experience Cookbook

(Source: VA.gov)

External Resource

Periodic Table of Acquisition Innovations

(Source: FAI.gov)


Research Reports

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

The Partnership for Public Service and Maximus Federal address how individual leaders can improve the federal customer experience and recommends government-wide actions agencies can take to create a culture of customer-focused leadership.

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Roadmap for Renewing Our Federal Government

Our country needs an effective, innovative government that can meet the demands of a fast-paced, interconnected, technology-driven world, but government often struggles to keep pace. Federal agencies offer few incentives for employees to try new ideas, are saddled with outdated technology and lag behind the private sector in hiring qualified technologists in sufficient numbers for critical leadership and staff positions.

Read more

Bright Spots: Federal Success Stories from the COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

Download (591k)

A Roadmap to the Future: Toward a More Connected Federal Government

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.

Download (734k)

The Future Has Begun: Using Artificial Intelligence to Transform Government

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.

Download (4m)

More Than Meets 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.

Download (463k)

More than Meets AI II: Building Trust, Managing Risk

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.

Download (376k)

Innovation is a Contract Sport: Ways that agencies can achieve innovative outcomes through acquisitions

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.

Download (656k)

The Federal Innovation Council

We formed the Federal Innovation Council to help government meet our nation’s 21st century challenges. The council includes current federal innovation leaders, each of whom offers a valuable perspective on innovation in government.

Together with these federal leaders, we are committing to collaborate on an ambitious agenda: forging a more innovative federal culture by highlighting key innovation successes, overcoming critical barriers, training the next generation of federal leaders and more. We’re grateful and thrilled to have these outstanding federal leaders dedicate their time, experience and expertise to this effort.

Amira Boland, Co-chair
Federal Customer Experience Lead
Office of Management and Budget

 Arianne Miller, Co-chair
Managing Director, The Lab at OPM
Office of Personnel Management

Jenn Gustetic, Vice-chair
Director, Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Sandeep Patel, Vice-chair
Director, Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)

Jay Benforado
Chief Innovation Officer
Environmental Protection Agency

Craig Buerstatte
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Regional Affairs
U.S. Economic Development Administration

Alexander Cohen
Director, Emerging Technology
U.S. General Services Administration

Polly Hall
Director, Procurement Innovation Lab
Department of Homeland Security

Daniel Morgan
Chief Data Officer
Department of Transportation

Gabrielle Perret
Director, Federal Robotic Process Automation Community of Practice
General Services Administration

Todd Rubin
Attorney Advisor
Administrative Conference of the United States

Jennifer C. Shieh, PhD
Chief Scientist, SBIR/STTR
Small Business Administration

Nancy Weiss
General Counsel
U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

Brian Whittaker
Chief Experience Officer
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Christina Yancey
Chief Evaluation Officer
Department of Labor

Drew Zachary
Co-Managing Director, Census Open Innovation Labs
U.S. Census Bureau

The Federal Innovators Network

The Federal Innovators Network (FIN) is a community of innovators and intrapreneurs inside and outside of government that challenges bureaucracy, seeks change that matters and improves government and citizen services. FIN provides a space where innovators can be better together, and work across organizational boundaries to pass along tried and true solutions. 

With the support of the Federal Innovation Council, the Partnership for Public Service partners with FIN to host workshops, guest speakers and networking opportunities that ultimately aim to provide a home for federal innovators across the government enterprise.

Join FIN

Innovative Federal Employees

The Partnership’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, known as the “Oscars” of government service, every year honor dynamic and innovative federal employees who have made important contributions to the health, safety and prosperity of people in the U.S. and around the globe.

Whether defending the homeland, protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, making scientific and medical discoveries, or responding to natural and man-made disasters, these men and women have broken down barriers, overcome huge challenges, put service before self, and made a lasting difference for our country.

Learn More


Innovation from pandemic can help leaders reimagine government

May 5, 2021

Publication Type: In the News

Federal employee engagement is up this year despite the challenges from the pandemic. About 75% of federal employees say their work gives them a sense of personal accomplishment.

Fed Tech Leaders Talk Innovation as Key to Resilience on MeriTV

February 2, 2021

Publication Type: In the News

Federal technology leaders offered an upbeat assessment on the climate for innovation in government operations on the inaugural episode of MeriTV, which launched last week to provide news and insight on today’s mission-critical IT challenges.

Defense Innovation Board Adopts AI Testing, Digital Workforce Recruitment Resolutions

September 16, 2020

Publication Type: In the News

The Defense Innovation Board convened for its fall public meeting Tuesday and approved resolutions for two key federal technology issues in addition to broadening its work on space. 


May 3, 2020

Publication Type: News Release

WASHINGTON – The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service today announced 27 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) finalists for 2020 – outstanding federal employees who serve the public good and are addressing many of our country’s greatest challenges. “The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly demonstrated how important an effective government is to our…


For more information on our innovation work, sign up for email updates below or contact Lindsay Laferriere at [email protected].