Onward Community Fund awardees are getting creative during COVID

The next round of the Onward Community Fund closes on 14 February 2021 but if you’re thinking about sitting this one out because of COVID, some of our previous awardees are here to show you it’s possible to adapt – even in these strange times.

2020 has been a hard year in so many ways, but it’s also forced us to learn how to quickly adapt and grow. This is even more important when people in your community are relying on you.

The Onward Community Fund supports groups and projects based in our local communities. In the year and a half or so that it’s been running, it’s awarded funding to some amazing initiatives that make a real difference to the people that rely on them.

However, our last group of awardees faced a different challenge, as they received their funding while the world was drastically changing. Instead of giving up and waiting for COVID to end, or using the money in ways that may not have been so relevant to the new situation they found themselves in, many of them have adapted in order to make the most of the money they’ve received and continue supporting their community.

So, with less than a month left to bag a share in the next round of funding, we’re sharing some inspiration from two projects that have risen to the challenge.

Liberty Farm bushcraft sessions

Liberty Farm in Tameside supports people with long-term mental or physical illness through its incredible bushcraft sessions. They help participants actively engage with nature, bringing huge benefits for their health and wellbeing. By taking this approach, the attendees also get more out of nature than they might from just passively walking outside, without knowing what they’re seeing or having the chance to interact with it.

The sessions explore the different trees and plants in the area alongside traditional skills such as fire-lighting, building shelters, and making and using tools.

Through the different activities, participants learnt how to face challenges and make adjustments to suit their health needs. They also get the chance to work alone and in pairs and teams, and to use this to explore how they like to learn and how they relate to other people.

After successfully bidding in the last round of the Onward Community Fund, the team was able to carry on with two of its three five-week programmes, with the final session postponed to Spring this year for better weather.

The project had to restrict group sizes in order to meet social distancing guidelines but was still able to welcome seven people to attend across the two programmes.

The team also modified some of its equipment to make it suitable for a participant with limited mobility, who needed to work standing up rather than kneeling or bending over.

Everyone who attended loved the sessions and appreciated being able to meet people safely and do something active outside.

One participant said: “I think it’s excellent, absolutely wonderful – it’s brilliant.” Another added: “It should be taught in schools as a national curriculum, right across the board.”

Other comments were that although one participant didn’t like cutting living plants, they appreciated learning how to cut wood from trees safely and properly, in order to use the wood and leave the tree in an improved state for growth.

Another attendee had been nervous of cooking before coming along, but has said she now feels much more confident using knives and sharp tools safely in the kitchen.

The team at Liberty Farms concluded: “We love it when we get comments like this, showing that our work has impact on some unexpected areas of life.”

Metro Boxing

Another successful group from the last round of funding was Metro Boxing in Westhoughton.

Metro Boxing’s youth club is a vital service for many young people across Bolton, who might otherwise be out on the streets or at a loose end. It instils discipline and teaches teamwork to the young people who come along, and engages with them on their own terms by recognising the frustration and aggression that is often the hallmark of teenage years.

The project is actually set up and run by two Onward customers who live in the area. This makes it a doubly great community project to support as, not only are we giving back to the community by funding local groups, we are also directly supporting our residents.

The initiative would usually run a youth class for boxers to spar against each other but during COVID contact sports like this haven’t been possible. The team at Metro Boxing quickly adapted though, by investing the funding in equipment which allows the kids to still be able to box but in a COVID-safe way.

They sent us over this video to show how the kids are getting on!

Apply for the Community Fund

 If you have a local group or project that could do with an extra boost, you could be eligible for the Onward Community Fund. We are currently accepting bids for the next round, which is due to close on 31 January.

Underpinned by our mission ‘To make a positive difference in the communities we serve’, groups can bid for up to £5,000 for their neighbourhood.

Projects should aim to address one or more of the following:

  • Support employment, skills and training
  • Promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing
  • Support the environment
  • Bring the community together

Examples could include IT training, youth projects or community events.

Applications must meet the following criteria:

  • The project must benefit Onward neighbourhoods – see a list of our neighbourhoods here.
  • Organisations must be constituted and have their own bank account


Please complete the registration form and a member of the team will be in touch. For more information on the Onward Community Fund you can drop us an email at socialinvestment@onward.co.uk.

You can also read about some more of the successful previous bids for inspiration.

To find out more about the Onward Community Fund or your tenancy get in touch on 0300 555 0600 

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