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Communities of Excellence 2026 Blogs

San Diego County’s South Region Community: Moving from Great to Excellent

Located within the County of San Diego in the State of California, bound by the United States-Mexico border and the Pacific Ocean, you will find the San Diego South Region community that is vibrant, family-oriented, diverse and binational.  The Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership Team (LWSD SRLT) serves approximately half a million residents that are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse.   While the County of San Diego, Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) functions as the backbone organization for the LWSD SRLT, shared leadership is a strong core competency that exists within the team.  Our leadership team is a collaborative group of organizational leaders who represent a variety of sectors within the San Diego South Region community including school districts, City and County government, non-profit community based organizations, law enforcement, hospitals, clinics, and businesses that work together to build a community that is healthy, safe and thriving.

In alignment with the Live Well San Diego vision, the LWSD SRLT’s vision is Healthy, Safe and Thriving Communities and its values include collaboration and commitment to the team and the residents of the San Diego South Region. The LWSD SRLT has evolved and expanded its focus from health to include aspects of safety and the overall wellbeing of residents.  The team ties together the collective efforts of community partners.  It is the central point for planning and organizing collaborative efforts, aligning to the mission and developing goals around the Five Areas of Influence (Health, Knowledge, Standard of Living, Community and Social) in order to improve the health, safety and ability of the residents to thrive.

The   LWSD SRLT also empowers residents to serve as leaders in their community.  In fact, three of the LWSD SRLT partners have hosted Resident Leadership Academies (RLA) in which residents learn to lead efforts to improve their communities. The RLA is a curriculum-based program, aimed at engaging residents with a focus on the development of a community improvement project. This is only one example of the work the LWSD SRLT has accomplished. Outcomes for the various strategies and programs the LWSD SRLT contribute to help achieve the vision for a healthy, safe and thriving San Diego South Region.

As a result of the LWSD SRLT’s demonstrated collaboration, South Region was selected as the first pilot community for Communities of Excellence (COE) 2026.  This was an opportunity for the LWSD SRLT to move the dial in its efforts to go from great to excellent in the work they were doing in the community.  Kathie Lembo, President/CEO of South Bay Community Services and co-chair of the LWSD SRLT, states,  “Our journey to this point has been transformational, as the Leadership Team members have contributed their skills, expertise and input throughout the process in ways we haven’t seen before. This shift in the way we do things has brought about new and exciting discoveries this past year.”  

This past year has truly been a year of discovery. The COE framework has allowed the LWSD SRLT to form a clear picture of the San Diego South Region community through the development of the community profile.  The team has been able to identify areas of strength in the community and within the team. The framework has also provided the LWSD SRLT with an opportunity to take a more structured approach in strategic planning, goal development and achieving the voice of the resident.  Through the strategic planning process and development of the Community Profile, it was decided to form a smaller Ad Hoc Group that consists of volunteer representatives from the LWSD SRLT.  The Ad Hoc Group has been instrumental in the development of the Community Profile. 

Barbara Jiménez, Director of Regional Operations for the County of San Diego’s HHSA Central and South Regions and co-chair of the LWSD SRLT states, “It has been inspiring to see the LWSD SLRT in action; to see them embrace the COE framework with a drive and eagerness to grow and develop their collaborative efforts.  At the same time the LWSD SRLT has been able to celebrate their successes and really define and highlight what makes them a successful team.  The LWSD SRLT is engaged and excited to see where this journey towards excellence will continue to take them!”