Region of Waterloo Upstream Fund

image of a colourful city and text that says community safety and wellbeing planIn 2022, the Region of Waterloo launched the inaugural Upstream Fund, a $4.1 million annual fund to support community-led initiatives in Waterloo Region that align with the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan (CSWP)Forty-one groups were part of the initial funding cohort, and we will continue to amplify their stories and the impact they are making on our community. 

The 2023 funding recipients were announced on September 21, 2023. View the list of recipients and a brief description of the work they do. 

 About the Upstream Fund

This fund uses a community-based funding model and focuses on upstream initiatives that improve social and economic systems to decrease barriers and improve supports that allow people to achieve their full potential. Achieving full potential includes social and economic factors that that influence people's health, like   

  • education
  • income
  • environment
  • food security
  • housing and employment  

These are often referred to as the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). (Approved by Council April 12, 2022). 

What Does Upstream Mean?  

The concept of Upstream is about prevention. It is about changing systems that distribute wealth, power, and decision-making.  

Upstream approaches help us to deal with lots of priorities and issues at the same time, while potentially needing fewer resources. The more upstream the action, the more people it can impact, as it is more focused on prevention. 

Some of the priority areas of upstream work are: 

  • Truth and Reconciliation

  • Addressing Systems that Limit Our Sense of Safety and Wellbeing 

  • Making Representation Meaningful and Powerful  
  • Committing to Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism  
  • Building Understanding and Pursuing a Sense of Belonging  
  • Creating Intentionally Structured Accountability  
  • Creating Cultural Safety  
  • Strengthening Communities – Building Social Capital 
  • Providing Basic Supports and Services that Meet Community Needs 

Middle and downstream approaches typically focus more on reducing risk, or changing the effects of causes. Taken together these approaches form a continuum of opportunities where change can be made. 

Upstream Fund and the Community Safety Wellbeing Plan (CSWP) 

The CSWP is a local, community-developed framework that uses   local interpretations root causes and turns them into actions to move forward. The local CSWP Framework focuses on the local priorities of Truth and Reconciliation, Anti-Hate, Anti Racism, Anti-Oppression and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). These priorities are also at the core of the Upstream Fund.  

Because the CSWP uses a local interpretation of Upstream, it can be used to inform funding priorities and anchor initiatives, actions, and programs within local needs.  

Community Change Committee

The Community Change Committee is made up of 12 dedicated community members. Members were selected through an application process to ensure representation of the diversity in our Region. These individuals, represented a wide range of backgrounds and expertise and contributed their valuable insights from the community to their roles within the committee. The committee collaborated closely with a Community Facilitator who facilitated discussions and provided essential support throughout the process. 

You can read the Community Change Committee Terms of Reference here.

Application Resources

Applications for the 2023 Upstream Fund are now closed.

Eligibility of Applicants  

The Upstream model is open to all community groups and organizations working on upstream initiatives within Waterloo Region. However, the fund will prioritize grassroots community organizations that have been, and continue to be, excluded from funding opportunities. This includes groups and organizations serving and led by:  

  • First Nations, Inuit and Metis   

  • African, Caribbean and Black identifying  

  • Communities and equity-deserving[1] groups facing exclusion based on attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, creed, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation and transgender status, etc.   

[1] Equity-deserving groups are groups “that identify barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination and actively seek social justice and reparation.” (Canada Council for the Arts) 

Groups must be one of the following:  

  1. A not-for-profit corporation, incorporated under federal or provincial legislation (a “Corporation”) 

  2. Un-incorporated group or initiative that partners with via an incorporated sponsoring agency that is a Corporation and who will sign the funding agreement
  3. Un-incorporated group or intiative that designates one individual applicant to sign the funding agreement

In such cases listed above, the signing sponsoring Corporation or individual shall be bound by all obligations under the funding agreement, including without limitation reporting on the funds received.

2023 Upstream Fund Terms of Reference

Other Local Funding Opportunities

Region of Waterloo Public Health and Paramedic Services 

City of Kitchener 

City of Waterloo

Media releases and articles

Media articles

Region of Waterloo media releases 


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