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. 

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 Despite this legacy, outdated systems, rules and processes hinder innovation at a time when government must grapple with a wide array of critical and complex 21st-century challenges.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

Research Reports

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)

How to Conquer Obstacles to Innovation and Drive Change

In this resource, the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton hosted a roundtable discussion with federal executives and interviewed other government leaders to identify some of the challenges to innovation they faced and the solutions they employed to drive transformational change. 

Download (109k)

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)

Leading Innovation in Government

In this report, the Partnership for Public Service and Hay Group set out to understand what these leaders have in common that allow them to build climates of innovation and deliver results when others have stalled.

Download (1m)

Innovation in Government

The Partnership for Public Service and IDEO spoke with innovators across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to understand the unique opportunities for and barriers to government innovation and identify best practices for promoting a culture of innovation in government.

Download (292k)

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.

Jenn Gustetic, Co-chair
Program Executive for Small Business Innovation Research
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

David Uejio, Co-chair
Chief Strategy Officer
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Jay Benforado
Chief Innovation Officer
Environmental Protection Agency

Amira Boland
Lead, Customer Experience and GEAR Center
Office of Management and Budget

Craig Buerstatte
Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
U.S. Economic Development Administration

Alexander Cohen
Director, Emerging Technology
General Services Administration

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

Daniel Morgan
Chief Data Officer
Department of Transportation

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

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
Director of Design and Development
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Charles Worthington
Chief Technology Officer
Department of Veterans Affairs

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.

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October 15, 2019

Publication Type: News Release

Among those also to be honored are longtime public servant Paul A. Volcker and 2019 Spirit of Service recipient Michael R. Bloomberg WASHINGTON – The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service will host its annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) awards gala on Wednesday, October 16, to honor outstanding civil servants who…


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

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