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Communities of Excellence 2026 Recognizes Fifteen Communities on their Journeys to Community Performance Excellence

Last month fifteen communities received formal recognition for their commitment to the health and wellbeing of residents and pursuit of community performance excellence. The communities were recognized across the three levels of the Communities of Excellence Assessment and Recognition Program.

The highest level of recognition is the Communities of Excellence recognition. Communities complete a self-assessment of their collaboration efforts after participating three years in the National Learning Collaborative program by responding to the Communities of Excellence criteria in its entirety. In their responses applicants detail the approach used, the extent of deployment, evidence of learning, and integration among key community processes. They also report levels, trends, comparisons, and integration for all key results related to the wellbeing of their community. The recipients are Excelsior Springs, Missouri, McCook, Nebraska, Northwest Missouri, San Diego South Region, California, Toledo, Ohio, and West Kendall, Florida.

For the second level of the recognition program, Journey to Community Excellence, communities respond to the Community Profile questions and describe key processes for their Community Leadership and Community Strategy. The recipients are Castle Pines, Colorado, Central Minnesota, Mahoning Valley, Ohio, and Midland County, Michigan. 

The recipients of the first level of recognition - Commitment to Community Excellence - are Ames, Iowa, Coral Gables, Florida, Coral Springs, Florida, Delaware, and Saratoga County, New York.  At this level of recognition, communities respond to the Community Profile section of the Communities of Excellence Framework.

The criteria for recognition were developed in partnership with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.  In parallel with Baldrige, the purpose of Communities of Excellence 2026 and the Recognition Program is threefold:

  1. To develop a nationally recognized standard of community performance excellence
  2. To establish role models of that standard through the Recognition Program
  3. To encourage continuous improvement through the sharing of best practices and feedback to communities on their performance excellence journey that will lead to better outcomes for the residents they serve.

“We congratulate all these leaders on their commitment to improving the performance of their communities and the health and wellbeing of their residents.   Moving forward we hope to elevate the assessment and recognition part of our work to become the seventh category of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award designated by Congress and coordinated through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s [DOC] National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST].  We strongly believe that adding “Community” to the Baldrige National Quality Awards will help to bring national recognition to the importance of improving community performance.” – Stephanie Norling, Executive Director, Communities of Excellence 2026

About Communities of Excellence 2026

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. Visit our website for more information about the 22 communities participating in the National Learning Collaborative - A Systematic Approach to Excellence in Communities:  Using a Baldrige-based Framework to Lead Transformation.