7 programs that bring private-sector talent to public-sector innovation

7 programs that bring private-sector talent to public-sector innovation

Creating new talent pathways to advance public causes.

Like most large organizations, the U.S. government has a strict hiring process, with many federal-level job openings requiring certain degrees or years of service. Over the past decade, a number of programs have created new pathways into public service — beyond a political appointment — for those who may not have otherwise considered working for a government agency or contributing their expertise to the policymaking process.

To be sure, private-sector entrants who don’t take a thoughtful approach risk derailing important public programs and initiatives. But just like any other sector, the government can benefit from outside perspectives — and a bidirectional flow of knowledge and expertise can create shared prosperity that would not be possible otherwise.

As inspiration for those who are curious about public service and opportunities to create new talent pathways, we’ve curated a list of programs that bring private-sector expertise to public-sector innovation.

  • Code for America is a nonpartisan organization that was founded around the time that open-source became the default for government, allowing any city or state to quickly adopt solutions implemented across the country. Today, it is a “network of technologists, advocates, and organizers.” Volunteer “brigades” work on civic tech projects to improve their local communities.
  • The GSA TTS’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program brings entrepreneurs-in-residence into government. During a one-year tour of duty, each fellow works at an agency alongside civil servants. PIF started in 2012 with the explicit intent of bringing in private-sector talent; it is now a permanent program.
  • Tech Congress offers several fellowship programs to “bridge the divide between Congress and the technology sector”: the Congressional Innovation Fellowship, the Congressional Innovation Scholars Program, and the Congressional Digital Service Fellowship.
  • The U.S. Digital Service “hires top technologists into term-limited ‘tours of civic service.’ By working alongside civil servants, they help build better tools for the people.”
  • U.S. Digital Response places “experienced, pro-bono technologists to work with government and organizations responding to moments of crisis, to quickly deliver critical services and infrastructure that support the needs of the public.”
  • Day One Project asks science and tech experts to propose policy ideas; the program accelerates those ideas by providing proposal development and advocacy support.
  • The Gov Lab’s Solving Public Problems program offers an open course and accelerator designed to mobilize community leaders and organizers to become effective social innovators.

Photo by Joel Durkee 


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