The role of cross-sector collaboration in federal agencies

Collaboration is key to implementing government policies that aim to solve complex societal problems. Where does the federal government stand when it comes to cross-sector collaboration?

President Biden’s infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act aim to radically change America’s landscape over the next decade. Together, they envisage decarbonization, setting up crucial and stable supply chains, and building next-generation technologies. This means huge investments in roads and bridges, broadband, wind farms, electric vehicle charging stations, battery supply chains, research institutions, semiconductor manufacturing plants, and more.

Implementing these bills could be another story. Every new administration offers big policy ideas to transform the nation, but the results are sometimes disappointing. One reason is that social problems tend to straddle boundaries—within departments and across agencies, sectors, and jurisdictions—and so should their solutions. Consider homelessness, opioid abuse, crime, and immigration: They spring from diverse sources, are emergent and shifting, and will never have one right answer.

Finding and implementing solutions to such issues is generally a complex and dynamic process. It requires strong collaboration between multiple entities to address different parts of the problem holistically. Many of these initiatives require coordination between the public and private sectors, various levels of government, different government agencies, and nonprofits.

The success of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act will not be measured by the funding amount but by the societal impacts they create. A strong cross-sector collaboration involving different levels of government and external ecosystems of stakeholders with specialized expertise could prove important to successful implementation.

Between August and September 2022, Deloitte and the Senior Executives Association (SEA) surveyed 276 SESers, Senior Level (SL), and Scientific or Professional (ST) executives in the federal government. The aim was to understand how cross-sector collaborations work in the government through the experiences of federal executives and senior leaders, the current practices being followed, and what future practice executives think would improve cross-sector collaboration in the federal government.

Our survey report covers diverse aspects of cross-sector collaborations to provide a complete picture of the current scenario, like the critical objectives government collaborations can help accomplish, the volume of collaborations currently taking place, the types of external collaboration partners agencies are teaming up with, the intensity and maturity of the collaborations taking place, and the amount of time agencies typically spend working with partners outside their agency. 

Apart from detailing the current scenario, the survey report also delves into various aspects that can help agencies make such collaborations more effective. It brings to light insights such as the critical skills individuals creating and managing collaborations need to develop for effective cross-sector coalitions, the type of accountability mechanisms that are most effective in managing such collaborations, and the ways and means government agencies can use to boost cross-sector collaborations. Our survey report points to some important shifts to achieve successful cross-sector collaboration in the public sector.

We thank the executives who participated and shed light on cross-sector collaboration in government.


The role of cross-sector collaboration in federal agencies

Get in touch

William D. Eggers
Executive Director, Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights
+1 571 882 6585

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