How we relate to partners

18F’s fundamental goal isn’t to implement agile, replace legacy systems, or change procurement. Our real goal is to help each partner fulfill the mission of their agency and serve the public.

Why partnership?

Technology is a necessary part of how government works (and has been, from quill and paper to the telegraph and the internet), but even maintaining technology is now a complex full-time job. Adopting the latest methods or experimenting with new tools is often impossible for partners who need to prioritize delivering a baseline service.

That’s where we can help: our partners call on us to bring technical expertise, new methods, and a fresh perspective to ensure that technology serves their objectives while remaining human-centered, resilient to change, and worthy of the public’s trust.

Principles for consulting work

Our ability to create change in the federal government relies on building strong, trusting relationships with our partners. Pragmatically speaking, 18F’s survival also depends on building a reputation for being great to work with.

We build trust when we’re able to demonstrate the value of our deep technology expertise by showing, with clarity and conviction, how new approaches can help our partners. In addition, we keep these principles in mind as we engage with partners:

  • Empathy: Changing how government approaches technology is hard, slow, and incremental work — both for us and for our partners. Our work is more effective when we bring compassion and patience to the constraints of our partners and appreciate the risks they face in spearheading change.
  • Curiosity: The more we can ground our work in genuine curiosity about their mission and the details of delivering on that mission, the more our recommendations will be concrete, transformative, and possible.
  • Humility: We are not experts in other agencies’ work. If we can gain their trust, our partners are our best guides to their organization, users, processes, and opportunities, and we learn as much from them as they learn from us.
  • Transparency: Our work is best when we bring partners along through everything we do. Showing them the process helps us model the work and build a foundation for them to take it over.

We work with, not for, our partners

We want to help them work in new ways and succeed beyond our time together. In choosing work and designing engagements, we aim to build partners’ capacity for managing effective technology products that support their strategic needs and serve their users.

Longer reads and deeper conversation

  • Consulting the 18F way: training presentation based on interviews with 18F staff that’s full of great examples and exercises
  • Introduction to Consulting Foundations: in-depth exploration of the animating values of good consultants and a framework for thinking about consulting work
  • #wg-consulting: an 18F community of practice focused on improving our skills as consultants