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About the Community Excellence Builder

The challenges communities face today and the challenges they will face in the future require a high level of performance—a commitment to community performance excellence that grows out of the recognition that the social determinants of economic vitality, educational achievement, and health status are inextricably interwoven. They require commitment among leaders across sectors and generations to take a systems approach to community performance.

The Communities of Excellence Framework is adapted from the Baldrige Excellence Framework. Throughout the framework, you will see the phrase “health, education, the economy, and quality of life.” Certainly, communities are trying to achieve other outcomes, but if you envision your community as a set of systems that must all function together to achieve optimal performance, then the key outcomes of health, education, the economy, and quality of life are fundamental to a community of excellence, and they should be the focal point of your community’s strategic objectives.

A Focus on Core Values

The Communities of Excellence Framework is based on the following core values and concepts. They represent beliefs and behaviors that we believe are found in high-performing communities.

  • Community systems perspective
  • Visionary community leadership
  • Resident- and customer-focused excellence
  • Valuing people
  • Community learning
  • Agility and resilience
  • Focus on success and innovation
  • Management by fact
  • Mutual societal responsibility
  • Ethics and transparency
  • Delivering value and results
  • Delivering Value and Results

How to Use the Communities of Excellence Framework

Answer the Community Profile questions. In the Community Profile, you define what is most relevant and important to your community’s well-being and performance. Rather than prescribe how you should structure your community leadership, objectives, or action plans, or what your community’s mission, goals, and measures should be, the framework asks you to make these decisions as a community. The Community Profile sets the context for your answers to the rest of the Framework’s questions. It can also serve as your first community assessment.

Answer the questions in categories 1–7. Your answers to these questions are an assessment against the most important features of community excellence. The categories represent 7 critical aspects of performing as a community:

  1. Community Leadership
  2. Community Strategy
  3. Residents and Other Customers
  4. Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
  5. People Resources
  6. Community Operations
  7. Results

Categories 1–6 each consist of two items (e.g., 1.1, 1.2) with many of the questions beginning with “how.” In answering these questions, give information on your community’s key processes:

  • Approach: How does your community accomplish its work? How systematic are the key processes used?
  • Deployment: How consistently are these key processes used throughout your community?
  • Learning: Have you evaluated and improved your key processes? Have improvements been shared within your community?
  • Integration: How do your community’s processes address its current and future needs?

For the five items in category 7, report on the results that are the most important to your community and your community excellence group:

  • Levels: What is your community’s and your excellence group's current results?
  • Trends: Are the results improving, staying the same, or getting worse?
  • Comparisons: How does your community’s performance compare with that of other communities and competitors, or with benchmarks?
  • Integration: Is your community excellence group tracking results that are important to your community and to the group? Is it using the results in decision making?

Evaluate your answers: process and results. See the steps toward high performance on page 26 to evaluate your answers to the questions in each item. Identify your strengths. Then look at the next higher level to see what you might improve.

Prioritize your actions. Celebrate your community’s strengths and build on them to improve the things your community and your community excellence group does well. Sharing the strengths with the community can speed improvement. Also prioritize opportunities for improvement; your community excellence group cannot do everything at once. Think about what is most important for your community at this time, and decide what to work on first. Develop an action plan, implement it, and measure your progress.