Upstream equity investments focus on youth and belonging

Posted on Thursday April 27, 2023

Waterloo Region – The Region of Waterloo is investing $1.4 million in 12 community organizations to improve inclusion and belonging for racialized and other marginalized youth and adults. The recipients gathered at a joint event today to share the impacts of their work.

The funding is part of a $4 million investment this year to improve community safety and wellbeing that includes the Region’s Upstream Fund and Community Capacity Building Fund. “These leaders, organizations and groups work every day to foster inclusion and belonging in the community,” said Regional Chair Karen Redman. “Investing in their work will create a better community for all. 

The funding supports and prioritizes work led by and serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis, African Caribbean and Black-identifying, racialized, and other communities facing discrimination and systemic barriers. 

These grassroots groups and organizations fill gaps in services to improve belonging in the community. From ongoing programs to new ideas taking flight, the array of work done by Upstream recipients is indicative of the creativity and care for others seen throughout Waterloo Region.

Recipient Hope for Community Development is working on providing more employment opportunities for racialized youth and adults. “We believe increasing entrepreneurial programs will decrease the unemployment rate that disproportionately impacts racialized youth and adults in the region,” said Hope for Community Development Founder Ralph Dagoseh.

“This initiative will increase access to employable and entrepreneurial skills development training and workshops. It will help racialized youth and adults transition from unemployment or unlawful employment to lawful employment opportunities to make their lives better.”

Recipient The Dope Content will use their funding to organize an event that highlights BIPOC creatives in the region. "Many times members of marginalized and underserved communities aren't enabled to have equal opportunities in emerging technologies due to a lack resources, lack of exposure to educational opportunities, and/or community support,” said Producer Mark Thompson.

“Web3 is already an estimated $2B+ market expected to grow 50 times in the next 10 years. It's been adopted into global enterprise business solutions, with many day to day uses like smart contracts to digital identities, it's critical these groups aren't left behind."

This group of 12 is among 41 recipients of the first round of funding. The remaining recipients will be announced through a series of events over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, applications for the 2023 Upstream Fund are open. Members of the community are invited to attend a Community Collaborative Event to learn more.

After applications close, the committee, which is comprised of community members, will allocate funding based on priorities identified by community. This funding model removes barriers for those who have historically, and continue to be, excluded from funding opportunities.

Investing in community-led change was a key call to action from community as part of the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan process. 

Backgrounder on Upstream Fund recipients: 

African Family Revival Organization

  • $95,000 Upstream Fund
  • $30,000 Community Capacity Fund

To increase programming and capacity to support grassroots mutual aid for Black and African communities in Waterloo Region. This includes programs related to empowering girls, providing mental health supports for seniors and youth, and supporting parents to be involved in their children’s schools.

Crow Shield Lodge

  • $200,000 Community Capacity Fund 

Supporting the operational needs and growth of this Indigenous-Led organization by employing staff and providing Indigenous community members with paid work for their gifts, knowledge and skills to provide teachings, programming and create pathways to culture for the Indigenous community and opportunities to connect for all nations. 

The Dope Content

  •  $60,000 Community Capacity Fund 

A three-day event to showcase BIPOC creatives in the Waterloo Region community. Highlighting a collection including arts, music to digital NFTs and other Web3 technologies.

Gizaagi'in Healing

  • $115,000 Upstream
  • $30,000 Community Capacity Fund 

Supporting finding physical space, employing staff, and beginning to create a space for deeper connection. As well, creating services centered on peer support, mental health resources and more for Indigenous peoples and the wider community. 

Hamere-Noah Kidane Mihret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church

  • $60,000 Upstream Fund
  • $30,000 Community Capacity Fund 

Working to support addiction and mental health issues and increase access to post-secondary education. Projects will support children and youth in Kitchener and Waterloo through academic tutorials, cultural learnings, networking and more.

The Healing of The Seven Generations

  • $384,369 Community Capacity Fund 

Preservation of cultural heritage that will be maintained by four full time staff consisting of a Knowledge Keeper, a Healing practitioner, a Cultural program coordinator and a Community support worker.

Hope for Community Development

  • $50,000 Upstream Fund

Increasing entrepreneurship programs for racialized youth and adults in Kitchener-Waterloo to grow professional networks, gain mentorship, and access education and training.

Independent Living Waterloo Region

  • $45,000 Upstream Fund

The Community Resource Program will help people with disabilities to live independently and develop stronger social connections, including support to ILWR’s Youth in Transition program, which offers peer-based recreation and social activities.

Indigenous Poets Society

  • $70,000 Upstream Fund

Creation of Indigenous Poets Society Anthology and Website to preserve culture and increase access to arts.


  • $20,000 Upstream Fund

Creating a storytelling-laboratory to train, empower, and teach various techniques for creatively telling stories of lived experiences.

Mel Brown Music Festival and Symposium 

  • $15 000 Community Capacity Fund  

Supporting the Mel Brown Music Festival and Symposium (MBMFS) which celebrates Black music and art in Waterloo Region, and is heavily influenced by the enduring legacy of epic blues musician Mel Brown. 

Rhythm and Blues

  • $110,000 Upstream Fund
  • $94,483 Community Capacity Fund 

Afro-centered and culturally responsive community education and outreach to meet the needs and concerns of the Black community.

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