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Mission & History

Communities of Excellence 2026 (COE 2026) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that hosts a national learning collaborative of communities across the country, trains communities in the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework, and provides opportunities for communities to work together, share successes, challenges, ideas and best practices, and learn from each other on their performance excellence journey.

Why We Exist

To ensure that every person in America has the opportunity to live their best life in communities that are thriving.

Envisioned Future

Communities that adopt the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework are recognized as the top-performing in the nation and are catalysts for our country to again lead the world in educational attainment, economic prosperity, health and wellness, and quality of life.


The concept of COE 2026 was conceived in 2010 by two former healthcare CEOs whose organizations won the National Baldrige Quality Award under their leadership. They believed in the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework; a systems-based approach built on principles of performance excellence that created significant and sustained improvements in performance, quality and cost in businesses and organizations worldwide. More specifically, they believed that the Baldrige Framework could be effective in uniting sectors and leaders across a community and ultimately produce positive and sustainable results to key areas of community performance such as educational attainment, economic vitality, health, and safety. 

Their vision led to more conversations with Baldrige and other government, business, university and foundation experts from around the country. In 2012, a steering committee began to adapt the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to the community level. In 2013, COE 2026 became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization to help communities address challenging issues using a systematic and systemic performance excellence framework.