That is a record low; yet, the percentage of young people interested in government has been on a steady decline. Why? Decades of public government-bashing and corruption scandals, the rise of nonprofits as the public service venue of choice, and a prevailing perception among young people that government work = dead-end red-tape have turned generations off of government service.
To make matters worse, cities’ recent budget-driven layoffs have often disproportionately targeted the minimal young talent cities have. The result: our already cash-strapped cities are filled with near-retirees, with few people in the pipeline ready to sustain and innovate the public services we all depend on.
We offer a systemic solution to the leadership crisis threatening American cities. We incentivize America’s best and brightest recent college graduates to do municipal work by giving them firsthand experience in using local government to drive social change.
Our Fellows function as full-time city employees, not as interns, consultants or observers. In contrast to traditional means for engaging new talent in civic issues – ad-hoc, part-time, short-term government internships, programs for MPA/MPP graduates and mid-career programs for local business leaders – we engage future leaders at the most pivotal point in their career development: the year after college graduation. Unlike typical leadership and internship programs, we do not simply trot out city officials to “talk at” our Fellows. Rather, our Fellows participate in a structured, year-long, quasi-academic exploration of how their city functions and why it operates that way, complete with intensive pro bono consulting projects through which Fellows practice policy evaluation and policy-making. Throughout, our Fellows experience how their efforts directly impact their local community.
Our method words. Well over half of our alumni remain (or return after graduate school to) local public service. Not only are they helping drive significant improvements in fields ranging from public health to public transit to public finance, they also are attracting more bright, energetic young people like themselves to local public service.
Our theory of change can be summed up in two words: smart leverage. By energizing more new young talent to enter the local public sector each year – and empowering them to be effective changemakers – we are kickstarting a snowball effect that will change both the culture and the perception of government as well as the caliber of people choosing to work for cities. Where smart young people go, smart young people follow. The efficient, effective local public sector that results will make life better for all Americans.