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Communities of Excellence 2026 Blogs

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30 volunteer examiners contribute nearly 200 hours of service to Communities of Excellence 2026

Communities of Excellence 2026 would like to thank the 30 volunteer examiners who assisted us this year in providing feedback to eight community applicants for the Communities of Excellence Recognition Program. Our volunteers consisted of national Baldrige examiners, leaders in the Baldrige state and regional programs, and community leaders both inside and outside of our National Learning Collaborative.

The examiners participated in an online training session, conducted an independent review of the community applications, and joined online consensus calls to agree on the final feedback reports we provided to our communities – in total, nearly 200 hours of volunteer service. These final feedback reports provided highlights and considerations for improvement related to each community’s responses to the Criteria for Communities Performance Excellence.

In parallel with Baldrige Program’s mission, the purpose of Communities of Excellence 2026 and the Recognition Program is threefold:
1. To develop a nationally recognized standard of community performance excellence.
2. To establish role models of that standard through the Recognition Program.
3. To encourage continuous improvement through sharing of best practices and provision of feedback to communities on the performance excellence journey that will lead to better outcomes for the residents they serve.

All eight communities were honored at the Baldrige Fall Conference this year in Denver, Colorado.

View the list of the 30 generous volunteers on our website here: http://communitiesofexcellence2026.org/what-we-do/recognition-program/2018-volunteer-examiners.html

We will once again be looking for volunteers for next year’s recognition program. An official announcement will be sent out in early Spring. If you would like to volunteer to become an examiner please join our mailing list to receive these announcements or check our website in early Spring.

COE 2026 Welcomes a new Board Member

We are pleased to welcome Darin Attebury as our newest addition to the Communities of Excellence 2026 Board. Darin is the City Manager for the City of Fort Collins, Colorado; a 2017 National Baldrige Quality Award recipient. As City Manager, Darin has led the City government through a time of transformational change, moving the organization from a "trust us" model to one that uses a data-driven, performance-based approach. Darin is an advocate for community collaboration and has built strong relationships with both public and private sector partners.

“Commitment to our community is my core belief, and happens to be the core competency for the City of Fort Collins. The idea of Communities of Excellence, where various sectors, the public, enterprise, and government work together to co-create an environment where we all want to live, greatly inspires me. I look forward to being part of this impactful movement.”

From COE 2026 Board Chair Lowell Kruse, “Fort Collins is such a wonderful example of a community that is passionate about quality and serving its citizens. Darin's leadership in pursuing a culture of excellence has been truly remarkable. We welcome him to our board to help advance the communities of excellence vision.”

Welcome to the Board Darin! You can read more about Darin and all our Board members, including their bios on our Board Member webpage: http://communitiesofexcellence2026.org/who-we-are/staff.html

I am very pleased to announce the first formal update of the Communities of Excellence Framework. Through our experience over the past year with the National Learning Collaborative, individual meetings with community leaders, and the thoughtful input of our many volunteers and supporters, we’ve made some important changes that I believe will the positively impact the efforts of the communities that use this framework.

The majority of the changes will be found in the Community Profile, where we’ve clarified the difference between the community at large and the community excellence group that is undertaking this effort on behalf of the community. Throughout the rest of the framework you will see updates that reflect this new language and other small changes of clarification.

You can view the updated Communities of Excellence Framework on our website: http://communitiesofexcellence2026.org/what-we-do/framework-agreement-page.html

Stephanie Norling
Director, Communities of Excellence 2026