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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.

Mission—What Communities of Excellence 2026 Does

Improve the quality of life for our nation’s residents by assisting communities in implementing the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework. 

Envisioned Future

By 2026, we will have successfully adapted and refined the Communities of Excellence Framework and set a course of action among communities across the United States to embrace the framework and begin their journey to achieve and sustain excellence. Over the ensuing decades, this growing archipelago of communities will consistently be the top-performing in the nation and their success will meaningfully influence others to strive for community performance excellence. Building on the foundation of democracy and liberty established by our founders, communities engaged with Communities of Excellence 2026 will be an inspiration world-wide in economic prosperity, educational attainment, health status, and other key measures of community health and well-being.


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.