Communities of Excellence: A Case Study

By Kruse Scholar Jasmin FosheimJasminPhoto

Sioux Falls, South Dakota is currently experiencing a major shortage of affordable housing units. Struggling families without safe homes to return to each night are forced to wait years before they reach the top of waiting lists for safe, affordable housing. Earlier this summer, however, I had the honor of participating in a focus group with the Augustana Research Institute and some fellow Augie Kruse Scholars aimed at solving this problem. Together we worked to apply the Baldrige Criteria to the issue of affordable housing in Sioux Falls as a case study for using Baldrige in combination with Collective Impact efforts within our community.

We spent a great deal of time initially reviewing literature to inform ourselves about the issue of affordable housing throughout the US and brainstorming causes big and small of the shortage in affordable housing. We then identified community organizations, businesses, and people who are affected by or have the ability to impact the availability of affordable housing. Once we discovered the vast number of these individuals and organizations, however, we realized that this was not an issue that could be solved using the Baldrige Criteria alone; we had to use the Communities of Excellence framework to organize the efforts of all actors within the community and ensure that everyone involved was working together to effectively and efficiently achieve the goal of increasing the availability of affordable housing.

In the hours and days that followed, we successfully applied the Baldrige Criteria and the Communities of Excellence framework to the issue of affordable housing in Sioux Falls, emerging with a written guide for using these frameworks in combination with Collective Impact efforts within communities. The general scope of the project, the number of actors who needed to be involved from within the community, and the absence of a CEO to lead the efforts made the work we did frustrating. Using the Communities of Excellence framework, however, we overcame these barriers within our case study, making the work we were doing to solve the affordable housing shortage within Sioux Falls and to pave the way for Sioux Falls and other communities to solve other problems using our written guide an incredibly rewarding experience.  

Until I participated in this focus group, I saw Communities of Excellence and the Baldrige Criteria as abstract frameworks for sectors of the community I won’t enter until I become a working professional. Completing this project, however, made these frameworks tangible; suddenly they became tools for use by my community, my peers, and me—tools capable of creating real changes in real communities to improve the lives of real people.

Read more about Jasmin Fosheim here

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