Intelligent Community Awards Program®

The Intelligent Community Awards Program® honors the achievements of Intelligent Communities in creating dynamic, prosperous and inclusive economies that strengthen social connections and support rich and meaningful cultures. These are the things that make a community of any size a great place to live, work, start a business, build a career, raise a family and prepare a way for the next generation. 

How to Nominate Your Community

You are welcome to submit a nomination at any time. See the Smart21 Events page for the next closing date. Start your nomination →

The Value of the Awards

The annual Award program focuses local, regional and international attention on achievements and progress that too often goes unnoticed in communities, especially in small-to-midsize ones that are seldom in the news. For residents and employers, it shows the community in a new light on a global stage, and motivates greater participation in programs. 

The Awards Process

At each stage, ICF uses a standard, documented, transparent process to gather information on communities, analyze it, score it and report the results, described below.

ICF maintains data on hundreds of communities around the world, drawn from Assessment Questionnaires submitted by them, updates they provide and publicly available information. The questionnaires are based on standards developed for ICF’s Intelligent Community Certification program, consistent with the six Factors of the Community Accelerator Strategy.  ICF periodically reviews and updates the questions based on current best practices in development. Entered into ICF’s analytic model, the data produces a score for each Factor and a score for the community based on an equally-weighted average of the Factors.

Smart21 Communities – announced in FEBRUARY or MARCH

ICF selects the first set of award-winning communities from Assessment Questionnaires submitted or updated during the most recent three-year period. This ensures that the selection is based on recent data and that the work of the communities reflects the current best development practices. Before the public announcement, ICF informs all eligible communities in our database that they are under consideration, so they can either provide additional updates or ask to be excluded from the current Awards cycle. When the list is final, ICF announces our Smart21 Communities of the Year®, semi-finalists for Intelligent Community of the Year, in February or March. Deadline for submission will vary depending on the announcement date.

Top7 Communities – announced in JUNE

ICF invites the Smart21 to answer narrative questions about their most important programs in the six Factors of connectivity, workforce development, innovation in business and government, community engagement, digital inclusion and sustainability. Entry into the Top7 evaluation requires communities to commit, if selected, to attend the ICF Summit, participate in the program and join the Awards Dinner. Most elect to do so, but communities also have the right to end their participation at the Smart21 stage.

An independent team of Analysts – ranging from academic experts to local government and nonprofit executives – reviews answers to the narrative questionnaires submitted to ICF. For each factor, the Analysts assign a five-point score based on their view of the quality, importance and scale of the projects relative to the community’s situation and need. ICF averages these scores into those generated in the previous stage to narrow the 21 to the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year®, which are announced in June of each year. The Top7 receive local and international media coverage and become the finalists for ICF’s Intelligent Community of the Year award.

Intelligent Community of the Year – announced in OCTOBER

ICF conducts a site audit of each Top7 community, which may be either in-person or online, and may last up to 2 days.  Audits are organized by the community with guidance from ICF and are conducted at the community’s expense for travel, accommodation and related auditor expenses.

During the audit, the ICF auditor receives presentations on the Factors to validate the written submission, meets with leaders and visits important sites to gather new information. The auditor then submits a report to an international team of Jurors following the audit.  After reviewing the reports, the Jurors individually rank the Top7 in their order of preference.  ICF averages these rankings to produce a third score for the communities. This averaged on a weighted basis with the previous scores to select the Intelligent Community of the Year®.