Create a crowdsourced, open-source toolkit, Community of Practice to build a 21st century government. 


Co-Creator and Storyteller


How might we build a 21st-Century Government?

Background and problem

In October 2015 the White House launched its Strategy for American Innovation, which outlined 11 complex and bold innovative approaches toward "increasing the innovation capacity of government." The strategy outlined the following problem:

"A growing number of Federal employees are using new approaches to solve problems, improve the core processes of government, and foster innovation. However, adoption of these approaches is still low relative to their potential. Many Federal employees do not know that these approaches exist or lack the support needed to use them effectively."

In December 2015 the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Institute of Science and Technology and DARPA offered funding to kick off research and development of the "Innovation Toolkit". Research began in Spring 2016 and continued through January 2017. In March 2017 GSA's Innovation Portfolio launched the Better Government Movement, building upon past research, consisting of a crowdsourced toolkit and community of practice for government innovators to collectively envision and implement a 21st century government.

Our Research approach

Through research we set out to discover:

"How might we effectively serve the many talented Federal employees who have the motivation and potential to cause change?

This includes innovation lab leaders and participants, people in fellowship programs, and people anywhere else in the federal government who take formal or informal leadership roles supporting effective new approaches.

We interviewed a range people with formal and informal leadership roles who learn about and implement innovative approaches. We spoke to 15 people across 12 agencies, including seven people working in innovation labs and three people in innovation delivery teams. We reviewed requests coming in coming in from innovative groups within the government, and discussed this work with the agency partnership teams. We also partnered with research teams studying digital transformation within the government. Finally, we explore the landscape of existing work: existing toolkits for patterns and concepts for wide dissemination and adoption of innovative practices. 

We investigated these core questions:

  • What resources does the target audience need to support their work when trying new approaches?
  • What gaps do they see in the available resources?
  • What are the current ways they look for the kinds of information the toolkit would support?
  • What barriers stop them from using innovative approaches, including barriers to finding key resources?

Our Findings

Through our research we uncovered that innovators in government have four major traits in common: managing, exploring/experimenting, persuading and telling stories. Below is a profile of the government innovator:

  • Manage, often with limited time and resources
    • Oversees an innovative team, program, or center, often with limited time and resources
    • Attempts to do work efficiently and effectively
    • Juggles many priorities and as a result becomes reactive and/or overwhelmed, often presenting as frazzled  
  • Explore, experiment, cut red tape
    • Explore how to fit innovative approaches into their office or agency setting, which is often new to their agency and sometimes for themselves
    • Broaden their skillset without having to know everything that there is to be learned.
    • Not always able to write freely about their work
  • Persuade and share stories
    • Convince leadership at their agency to adopt innovative approaches
    • Innovate within the legal and policy bounds of their agency
    • Tell effective stories about how innovative goals a re accomplished

Innovators heavily depend on their human networks to find their information from their peers or people they've heard might help and cast a wide net to learn from a broad variety of resources. Most innovators work closely with stakeholders within their agency and get inspiration from them.

For innovators to do their job more effectively, they need authoritative, sample, and replicable documents on topics such as legal/policy/regulations, operational structures, and how to measure their return on investment that they can reuse and adapt to their agency/organization. They're also looking for a more personal, in-person touch, including connections to other people who are doing related work and support for being effective leaders of change.

Our Solution

The people working to implement and advocate for innovation within the Federal government are experienced in research, networking, “bureaucracy hacking”, and figuring out how to get things done with limited resources. We're developing out a product that iteratively figures out how to serve their needs -- not just a standalone toolkit “product”, but a useful web resource combined with community and human interaction, which would grow and iterate over time.

How to foster better culture and relationships between government innovators and the public. 

The Better Government Movement builds the awareness, adaptation, and adoption of a core set of innovative principles to solve problems and promote a culture of experimentation both within the government and beyond.

Innovators within the government envision a better culture and relationship between the public and the government. This is set through:

  1. Setting the right leadership and vision
  2. Creating a knowledge base (toolkit) and understanding the citizen-government journey
  3. Teaching and empowering change agents to be catalysts for change within their organizations

The Better Government Movement was officially launched with a series of human-centered design workshops in Spring 2017. Throughout 2017 the Community of Practice will collectively build a toolkit and create a strategy to push innovation across the Federal government. 

Our MIssion and Principles


We transform the way the people of government work together, guided by principles, with realignment of, or new investment in, policies, processes, and technology.

With a focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, we’ll create a more responsive and collaborative modern government, speaking directly toward the public’s needs and desires.


These six crowdsourced principles guide the development of the toolkit: 

  1. Focus on problems as well as outcomes--measure and evaluate and let data drive decision making to tell a story.
  2. Embrace change: improve and learn continuously, experiment, prototype and be open to new possibilities. 
  3. Everyone has the capacity to and should innovate: use proven methods that deliver more effective and efficient results and apply them to your work. 
  4. Collaborate, communicate and include partners inside and outside government. 
  5. Keep the customer at the center of your design. 
  6. Innovation is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

More to come in Summer 2017.