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Leadership Program

The Leadership STAR Community Program is a one-year all-inclusive package that provides extensive staff support and services to a cohort of communities as they work through the STAR Community Rating System® measuring local sustainability and pursuing certification.

The STAR Community Rating System (STAR) is the nation’s leading framework and certification program for evaluating the sustainability of U.S. communities. STAR provides a clear, data-driven approach to assessing social, economic and environmental conditions; the STAR certification process helps to identify gaps and prioritize investment. The certification process can also serve as a catalyst for local action, transforming the way that communities come together to address sustainability.


Spring 2015 Leadership Community representatives at the Program Orientation in Washington, DC.

Spring 2015 Leadership Community representatives at the Program Orientation in Washington, DC.


In the past two years, 72 cities and counties have participated in the Leadership Program. To date, 40 have achieved certification with another 5-10 expected to certify this winter. The Spring 2016 Program will be the 5th cohort of Leadership Communities.

Participating communities report that this process helped them gain a deep understanding of their community’s strengths and needs and has provided a springboard for civic engagement, cross-agency coordination, integrated budgeting and performance management, partnerships with philanthropy, and economic development.

Program Benefits

  • A 2-day in-person orientation workshop at the beginning of March with other Leadership communities;
  • A dedicated STAR Communities staff liaison throughout the year;
  • One year of membership in the STAR network with STAR Member Community benefits;
  • Ongoing educational programs and networking opportunities with other Leadership communities;
  • A copy of the Technical Guide to the STAR Community Rating System;
  • Access to STAR’s customized online Reporting Tool to store and track sustainability data;
  • Access to STAR’s on-call technical content experts and advisers;
  • Basic STAR PR media services to assist in local storytelling;
  • Verification of the community’s submission to receive an official STAR certification, and;
  • Recognition as a national sustainability leader.

Cost & Financial Assistance

The cost of the one-year program is $7,500 and begins March 1, 2016. Competitive scholarships are available to communities that demonstrate need and strategic vision. It is expected that communities will apply for STAR certification by the end of the program on February 28, 2017. Communities with high enough scores receive a certified STAR Community Rating and are nationally recognized for their leadership during the program year.

For Spring 2016, in partnership with the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (TFN), STAR Communities will make available a limited number of need-based program fee scholarships to communities demonstrating compelling resource constraints and need.

Program fee scholarships are limited and will be awarded on a competitive basis. Past scholarships have typically covered a portion of the program fee, not the whole amount. The selection committee will prioritize applications based on demonstrated need by the jurisdiction; the amount of funding requested from TFN/STAR Communities relative to leveraged local resources; and evidence of commitment by one or more local foundations to support the community’s participation in the program.

Application Dates & Details

The next Leadership Program will run from March 2016-February 2017. Download the application here: Leadership STAR Community Program Spring 2016 Application.

For more information, download the Spring 2016 Leadership Program Info Packet. Read more about the most recent Leadership cohort and training event here.

STAR will also be holding an informational call for interested communities on Friday, December 4th at 2pm ET.

Applications should be submitted via email to info@starcommunities.org by December 31st, 2015 for priority consideration for financial assistance. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through January 29th, 2016.

For More Information

STAR Communities encourages local governments that are considering applying for the Leadership Program to schedule an informal conversation to discuss your goals and ask questions about the program. Please email Lacey Shaver, Leadership Program Manager, at lacey@STARcommunities.org with questions or to set up a call.