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

Such an approach exists for individual organizations — the Baldrige Principles of Performance Excellence — that the founders of Communities of Excellence 2026 have successfully used to improve the performance of organizations they have led.  This proven, comprehensive, and systematic approach can accelerate a community’s drive to improve quality of life for residents. 

Adaptation of the Baldrige Framework and Criteria for Performance Excellence to communities began with a team of experts in 2012.  Since then, the Communities of Excellence Framework and criteria have undergone multiple iterations based on feedback from community leaders, Baldrige experts and program staff, and engaged community partners. 

“From my perspective, [COE] is the only way that a community can truly have the right dialogue to advance as a complete community. If you really want sustainability and change and something to be proud of…I personally think [COE] is the only structure that can really advance that conversation in a meaningful way.” —Steve Wenger, Northwest Missouri