Excelsior Springs: A First in the Nation

The City of Excelsior Springs has been named as the first Community of Excellence in the United States. 

Excelsior Springs is the first community in the nation to receive silver recognition through the Communities of Excellence Assessment and Recognition Program. This is the highest level of recognition currently awarded through the program. The effort to receive this recognition was led by Thrive Excelsior, a community coalition seeking to increase the quality of life and life span of residents in Excelsior Springs.

City Manager Molly McGovern said the work also involves creating relationships around a common purpose. “We have made an intentional choice to pursue this work, and it is the difference between “putting out fires” or preventing them, she said. 

Big Challenge

To be considered a Community of Excellence, cities complete a self-assessment of their collaboration efforts after participating for a minimum of three years in the National Learning Collaborative program. Applicants respond to the Communities of Excellence criteria in its entirety. In their responses, applicants detail the approaches used to develop strategies and meet their goals, how well these approaches are deployed to community stakeholders, how they learn and improve over time and how they align their efforts with community needs – integrating plans, processes, information, resource decisions, actions and analyses to support community-wide goals. They also report key results related to the success of these efforts and the overall wellbeing of their community.

Baldridge Connection

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

  • To develop a nationally recognized standard of community performance excellence
  • To establish role models of that standard through the Recognition Program
  • 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

Community Effort

Stephanie Norling, executive director of Communities of Excellence 2026, congratulated the 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.”

Visit https://communitiesofexcellence2026.org to learn more about the National Learning Collaborative: A Systematic Approach to Excellence in Communities: Using a Baldrige-based Framework to Lead Transformation.

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