Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation


The challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.

- Senator Barack Obama, July 1, 2008


President Barack Obama has made it a priority for this administration to find new ways for the government to partner with nonprofits, foundations, philanthorpists, private organizations, academia, and all levels of government in solving shared problems.  Given the scale of the challenges this country faces, the ability of government to forge effective relationships with organizations across sectors will be critical in making progress on the President’s agenda. For our purposes, a partnership is a collaborative working relationship between the US government and non-government partners, or among US government entities, in which the goals, structure, and governance of the partnership, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each partner are mutually determined.

Partnerships are based upon the convergence of interests between US government and non-government partners that advance the objectives of each respective organization. They require shared risk, investment (direct or indirect), and potential reward for all partners. And, when effective, partnerships result in the leveraging of unique partner skills and assets, producing outcomes with greater impact than could be achieved independently.


The Administration has launched partnerships to support each of the following initiatives:

  • Educate to Innovate is a campaign to improve the participation and performance of America's students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that has announced a number of major public-private partnerships;
  • Let's Move, championed by the First Lady, is a campaign working in partnership with major foundations, nonprofits, and the private sector through the Partnership for a Healthier America to help end childhood obesity in a generation;
  • Text4Baby is an innovative public-private partnership to get weekly SMS text messages to provide pregnant women and new moms with information to help them take care of their health and give their babies the best possible start in life;
  • The Social Innovation Fund is a public-private investment, with a 3:1 private match for every public dollar invested. The Fund will also work in partnership with foundations and other private partners to support and create a learning community for grantees;
  • United We Serve, the President and First Lady's call for Americans to serve, benefits from a number of partnerships that are highlighted on the amplify and add capacity to the call to serve; and,
  • All for Good is an innovative search tool launched by Our Good Works in partnership with CNCS to help Americans connect to over 250,000 opportunities to serve through


Guiding Principles

The Administration recognizes that an effective partnership strategy will have a catalytic impact on achieving the objectives of the administration, and aims to build frameworks to guide these partnerships. 

Our partnerships strategy is guided by the following five principles.

Do More With Less

Partnerships must enhance Federal resources in a targeted manner, which is increasingly important as the Administration confronts large budget deficits and spending freezes.

Build Upon Others’ Expertise

Take advantage of the core competencies of external stakeholders based on their unique capabilities and skills.

Leverage Collective Action

Partnerships must bring together new coalitions of public and private actors in order to solve problems that cannot be addressed by any single organization or sector alone.

Improve Performance

Partnerships must increase efficiencies and rely on external stakeholders to improve the speed and agility of accomplishing a shared policy objective.

Involve a Broad Spectrum of Actors

Partnerships must open opportunities for individuals and small and medium-sized organizations across the nation to participate actively in solving national challenges.