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The United States as a nation turns 250 in the year 2026, which is why a small group of visionaries created a nonprofit called Communities of Excellence 2026 (COE 2026).  Our collective goal is not just to make it to 2026, but to create a framework that systematically addresses our nation’s issues at a grass roots level – within the communities in which we all live, work, and play – such that we sustain our nation’s strength for many generations, many centuries to come.  

The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated how important it is for us to work together.  Competition for resources, silo-ed activities across sectors, and duplication of efforts across organizations and businesses in communities are just a few of the many challenges we are facing.  To ensure better outcomes, all community sectors need to have a seat at the planning table, understand their role in improvement efforts, and work together on shared priorities to coordinate resources and activities that address root causes and achieve measurable results.

Communities of Excellence 2026 uses a validated improvement framework – Baldrige – to improve health status, educational attainment, economic vitality, and other key community outcomes by focusing on improving overall community performance in addition to individual components within communities.  

We are inspired by the hard work and dedication exhibited by the many organizations, businesses, schools, governmental units, resident groups, and beyond to improve our communities.   However, we need to do more.  Communities of Excellence 2026 does not try to duplicate any of the efforts already existing in a community.  Instead, we seek to strengthen, improve, and help sustain those efforts so that our communities see better, sustainable results over the long term.  

We began with two pilot sites; San Diego County’s South Region and the 18 Counties of Northwest Missouri in 2016.  The progress of these pilots convinced us that we should take our effort to the next level.  We wanted to provide an opportunity for communities across the country to work together, to share successes and challenges, promising practices and ideas for improvement, and learn from one another on their journeys to community excellence using the Communities of Excellence Framework.  In 2017 we launched our first national learning collaborative of communities.  In total, nine communities participated ranging from rural communities and rural regions, to suburbs and cities, to large urban regions.  Since then we’ve launched three additional cohorts, bringing the total number of participating communities to 21. 

Building on the success of these cohorts, we are pleased to add a fifth cohort of communities to participate in the learning collaborative this year.  We know that America faces great challenges as we approach the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding – the year 2026. We invite you to join Communities of Excellence 2026, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and communities from coast to coast as trailblazers in this movement to reshape America’s communities.