The Secret to Successful Healthy Community Programs


TiffanyThe neighborhood of Springwells Village is a rarity in Detroit: a densely-packed community in a city known for declining population and sprawl. The vibrancy of the 1.3 square mile area of Springwells Village comes largely from an influx of growing families.

More than 35 percent of the 17,000 residents are under the age of 18.

“There’s nothing for the children to do,” explains Program Manager Tiffany Tononi of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI), a group that concentrates its efforts in Springwells Village’s square mile. “That was one of the biggest bits of feedback we heard from the community when we started.”

UNI rose to that challenge by developing a high-functioning community center, investing in pocket parks, transforming blighted areas into green spaces and developing after school programs—including youth employment programs to maintain the new parks.

By any measure UNI has been an impactful community non-profit, but at the Samueli Institute’s Well Community Summit, Tononi revealed the secret to their success: authentic partnerships with community leaders, neighbors, residents, business leaders, funders and other not-for-profit organizations.

“Substantive forward strides in urban neighborhood development require authentic partnerships and it is these partnerships that allow us to maximize our combined resources in ways that empower communities and sustain the long lasting change that I know we are all looking for.”

What is a well community?

Tononi and her colleagues at UNI have developed their own thoughts on what make a well community– one that values including all community members to solve challenges at hand: 

“What is a well community if not one where every young person knows that they belong and feels the same sense of community responsibility that we ask their adult counterparts to feel?

What is a well community if not one where residents of all ages can look around and say, ‘I made that happen. That park, that garden, that mural. I am a part of it and it is a part of me. This is my community.'”

See the full talk 

Watch Tiffany Tononi’s presentation from the Well Community Summit on Samueli Institute’s YouTube channel.