Place-based fellowship programs can help strengthen the pipeline for filling key leadership roles in smaller legacy cities’ civic sector.

These programs seek to recruit top talent into public or civic-sector roles by providing fellows, who are typically recent graduates, with the opportunity to do impactful, high-level work early in their careers. Although fellowship positions are short-term, the goal of these programs is to retain talent in the community, even if not at the agency where the fellowship took place.

Although they share the goal of attracting and retaining talent, existing public fellowship programs in legacy cities are structured in different ways. Some programs specifically recruit fellows to work for local governments, while others support fellows at a wide variety of public-interest organizations. Some fellowship programs, like enFocus in South Bend, are structured more like a consultancy, where fellows work on a project basis for different agencies and organizations.

Fellowship programs recruit individuals to work for a defined time period, typically a year, in a role serving the public. Although fellowship programs may target recent college graduates or mid-career professionals, most place-based public service programs recruit recent Master’s program graduates. The positions are usually full time, although some programs include a professional development component that is built into the work day. In most cases, salaries are competitive in order to attract high quality candidates. Some programs also including a stipend for housing or other benefits.

Fellowship Examples

City of Hamilton Russell P. Price Fellowship
This one-year city government fellowship program hires multiple fellows to work in different aspects of local government. Although it has only been in existence for several years, it boasts a high retention rate for fellows that have stayed within local government.

Kansas City Cookingham Noll Fellowship
This two-year city government fellowship program in Kansas City, Missouri has been in existence for 70 years and has over 100 alumni. Fellows rotate among different offices in the city government during their first year, and work closely with leaders in local government.
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enFocus South Bend

enFocus recruits recent STEM graduates as fellows to work on high-impact projects in local government and the nonprofit sector. Fellows are paired with local mentors, and gain management experience by supervising a team of interns.

Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship

This one-year fellowship places recent college graduates in a public-sector agency in Cleveland. This program has an especially robust professional development component, with monthly training and coaching for fellows.