About the Community Excellence Builder

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

The Communities of Excellence Framework is adapted from the Baldrige Excellence Framework and uses the format of the Baldrige Excellence Builder. Throughout the framework, you will see the phrase “health, education, the economy, and quality of life.” Certainly, communities are trying to achieve other outcomes, but if you envision your community as a set of systems that all must function together in order to achieve optimal performance, then fundamental to a community of excellence are the key outcomes of health, education, the economy, and quality of life, and they should be the focal point of your community’s strategic objectives.

A Focus on Core Values

The Communities of Excellence Framework is based on the following core values and concepts. They represent beliefs and behaviors that we believe are found in high-performing communities.

  • Community Perspective
  • Visionary Community Leadership
  • Ethics and Transparency
  • Resident and Customer Engagement
  • Valuing Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • Building and Sharing Knowledge
  • Agility
  • Focus on the Future
  • Encouraging Innovation
  • Measuring Performance
  • Societal Responsibility
  • Focus on Excellence
  • Delivering Value and Results

How to Use the Communities of Excellence Framework

Answer the Community Profile questions. Rather than prescribe how you should structure your community leadership, objectives, or action plans, or what your community’s mission, goals, and measures should be, the framework asks you to make those decisions as a community. In the Community Profile, you define what is most relevant and important to your community’s well-being and performance. The Community Profile sets the context for your answers to the rest of the Framework’s questions. It can also serve as your first community assessment.

Answer the questions in categories 1–7. Your answers to these questions are an assessment against the most important features of community excellence. The categories represent seven critical aspects of performing as a community:

  1. Community Leadership
  2. Community Strategy
  3. Residents and Other Customers
  4. Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
  5. People and Organizational Resources
  6. Community Operations
  7. Results

Categories 1–6 each consist of two items (e.g., 1.1, 1.2) with many of the questions beginning with “how.” In answering these questions, give information on your community’s key processes:

  • Approach: How does your community accomplish its work? How systematic are the key processes used?
  • Deployment: How consistently are these key processes used throughout your community?
  • Learning: Have you evaluated and improved your key processes? Have improvements been shared within your community?
  • Integration: How do your community’s processes address its current and future needs?

For the five items in category 7, report on the results that are the most important to your community:

  • Levels: What is your community’s current performance?
  • Trends: Are the results improving, staying the same, or getting worse?
  • Comparisons: How does your community’s performance compare with that of other communities and competitors, or with benchmarks?
  • Integration: Is your community tracking results that are important to your community? Is it using the results in community decision making?

Evaluate your answers: process and results. Use the rubric on page 23 to evaluate your answers to the questions in each item. Identify your strengths. Then look at the next higher level to see what you might improve.

Prioritize your actions. Celebrate your community’s strengths and build on them to improve the things your community does well. Sharing the strengths with the community can speed improvement. Also prioritize opportunities for improvement; your community cannot do everything at once. Think about what is most important for your community at this time, and decide what to work on first. Develop an action plan, implement it, and measure your community’s progress.