By Communities of Excellence 2026 Director Stephanie Norling
Last week the Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership Team held their first in a series of sessions designed to engage the Live Well partners in the current strategic planning cycle. The meeting began with a presentation using American Community Survey data from 2010 and 2015. The team then held a facilitated discussion on the regional data presented: what was surprising, what would they like to know more about, who else could be involved from the region and finally, what did they see as the community’s “shared identity.”
The data held some surprises – Residents age 65+ increased by 22%, while residents under 17 increased by 2%. The number of residents 25 and older with less than a high school education increased by 10%, while at the same time, the number of residents with a Bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 19%.
It also demonstrated some things we suspected – Household incomes of $100,000-199,000 increased by 21%, household incomes of less than $10,000 increased by 17%, while those in between either increased or decreased by very small percentages – all this being consistent with a decline in the middle class occurring across the country.
So what’s next? At the next session, partner organizations will report on their community priorities, residents served, key targeted resident groups and key data they use. Eventually all this data will be used to develop shared community goals with input and ownership by all partners.
Having been with COE 2026 from its beginning, this session was particularly exciting for me. Our San Diego County pilot has helped us transform our hypothesis regarding the COE Framework into action. San Diego is on the journey to building a shared community strategy using a solid evidence base, where each partner organization will be able to articulate exactly how they contribute to the overall strategy. The results they report will reflect those goals, and the COE Framework will help to ensure alignment between the leadership, community strategy, the people and organizational resources they have available…the categories of the COE Framework.
I asked Barbara Jiménez, Director, Central & South Regions, County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency to share her thoughts on this meeting:
“We have a unique opportunity to build on past accomplishments by utilizing the Communities of Excellence framework to achieve sustainable and measurable improvements in the overall health and wellbeing of the community. I was very encouraged by the level of participation and commitment from our partners during the meeting. The regional data presented offered a first step in understanding our Community Environment and Community Strategic Context. There was valuable discussion, thoughtful reflection, and a number of questions. I firmly believe that we are on our way to developing a shared community strategy that will help us achieve meaningful change, align efforts to drive collective impact, and create new value for stakeholders. Our Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership Team has over 10 years of demonstrated collaboration and results. This opportunity will allow us to continue to collaborate, establish new relationships, and strengthen our commitment to building a region that is Healthy, Safe, and Thriving.”
I will continue to update you all on their journey as it progresses.