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Communities of Excellence 2026 Blogs

If you want to be in the know about what’s going on at our organization, you’ve come to the right place.

Be sure to check back regularly to get our latest updates.

Communities of Excellence 2026 (COE) is proud to announce its strategic partnerships with Tapp Network and PMG Consulting, advancing its mission to improve the quality of life for our nation’s residents by assisting communities to adopt the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework.

WASHINGTON D.C., August 9, 2022 –Earlier today, President Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which also authorized “Community” becoming the seventh category of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. This bill authorizes American communities to apply for and receive presidential-level recognition for efforts to systematically improve community performance across all sectors and collectively achieve better community outcomes. Communities now join American businesses and nonprofit organizations in applying continuous improvement practices to improve community outcomes related to health and wellness, educational attainment, economic vitality, and quality of life.

Assessments drive need for a systems approach to improving health by
addressing social determinants

December 27, 2021 | By COE Faculty Members Christel Gollnick and Brenda Grant | 7 minute read

This post is the first in a four-part series exploring why leaders in each of the four core areas of a community –
health, economic vitality, educational attainment, and overall quality of life – are finding the Communities of
Excellence Framework a beneficial guide in their collaborative efforts to improve outcomes in the places where they live, learn, work, and play. Communities of Excellence 2026, using the Baldrige Performance Excellence criteria as its foundation, provides learning opportunities and guidance for those interested in improving the performance of communities for their residents and other customers. The nonprofit organization is currently working with 23 communities throughout the United States and adding more annually.

The flagship program of Communities of Excellence 2026, the National Learning Collaborative, has grown over the past few years as much as the leaders spread in participating communities throughout the country. The organization will celebrate the completion of four years of supporting communities to adopt their Baldrige-based framework this Fall when the second cohort, the Class of 2021, transitions to the alumni group.

Have you ever had a problem that you couldn’t solve on your own or an opportunity that could only be pursued if you partnered with others? Communities, as collective entities, have this same experience regularly. There are often challenges and chances to achieve something better that cannot be addressed by any single organization, industry, or sector. Working together across traditional borders and competition lines to attain shared goals is required and can be difficult without guidance.

What is involved in being an advanced citizen in America? Is it just being civil to our neighbors, celebrating on the Fourth of July, and showing up to vote? Or is there more?

Thank you to Harry Hertz for writing this blog for Blogrige, the official Baldrige Blog! In it, Harry shares some of the insights he and the COE Learning Collaborative faculty have captured from our amazing group of COE communities.

Two Leaders in South Florida Share Their Recipe for Effective Leadership

February 6, 2020 | By Christel Gollnick with contributions from COE 2026 participants | 5 minute read

New Version of the Communities of Excellence Framework is now available!

Thanks to feedback from our faculty, staff and Learning Collaborative community leaders, the 2019 revision of the Framework is now complete and ready for viewing.

Where to view the Communities of Excellence Framework:
Click on the Framework link on our website.
For printed copies email us at Printed copies will be shipped depending on availability. A printing and shipping fee will apply. Minimum of 10 per order.

What's New with the Framework:
Criteria were updated consistent with the recent Baldrige Criteria update where relevant.
Most significant revisions are found in Categories 3 and 5, the Notes and the Glossary.
Improvements and clarifications to the language in the Core Values.
Minor grammar and editing errors were fixed.

Communities of Excellence 2026 would like to give a special thanks to Ellen Garshick for her thoughtfulness and leadership in completing these revisions

Six communities join Cohort Three of the National Learning Collaborative

Beginning October 1st, these 6 communities will join the 12 communities already on their journeys to excellence.

What the National Learning Collaborative Does:
• Train and support community leaders in the adoption of the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework – A proactive framework for cross-sector collaboration and performance excellence.
• Provide opportunities for communities to work together, share successes, challenges, ideas and best practices, and learn from each other on their performance excellence journeys.

How We Do It:
Activities include an in-person meeting in October, prework and assignments, twice monthly web-based sessions, and one-on-one expert progress reviews. The curriculum is designed for communities at varying levels of readiness to advance their community’s current efforts, learn from and share best practices with each other and includes access to our online communications platform.

See our map of communities here:

We look forward to sharing the progress of all 18 communities over the next year!

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:

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:

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:

Stephanie Norling
Director, Communities of Excellence 2026