How it works

For Orbit community investment is about utilising our own assets, our supply chain, partners and most importantly our customers to create thriving and empowered communities. This philosophy drives not just what we do, but how we do it.

We have four priorities for investing £30million in our communities by 2020 – money, employment and skills, wellbeing, and digital. Each priority has a strategy and a local delivery plan based on unique community need.

Our partnerships and investment in third sector projects, which account for over 85% of our funding, has enabled us to support new enterprises and grow existing successful programmes. Though Orbit prides itself on embracing innovation, we recognise that we don’t have all the answers.

The Better Days Fund recognises this. We think that there are significant opportunities in expanding the base from which we get ideas. We hope to augment the great work already being done by injecting non-traditional players into solving some of the issues. This includes individual actors to bridge the gulf between top down and bottom up solutions.

Finally Orbit hopes to foster an open culture of sharing and learning. Ways for all of us who strive to make positive impacts within society to share learning, experience and best practice.

We are looking to support activities that generate positive social action. Note that Orbit will always consider the funding amount being requested as a barometer of the burden of proof on the criteria. This will be at Orbit’s discretion. Contact us should you want to discuss this in advance.

Our priority will be on ideas that focus on sustainability, the ability to scale and robust systems of evidence particularly when these ideas are new or in early stage of their cycle. Existing ideas will need to explicitly articulate their path to sustainability, if they are achieving scale as well as their systems of measuring on going performance and evidence.

1. Within our 5 priority funding areas, applications need to specifically illustrate:

Sustainability: Orbit will want to understand how your model is designed to grow. It is important to understand what assumptions you have made in your chosen model and how you plan to deal with risks and challenges especially in activities that are in early development. It is important to Orbit that applicants understand their environment and how they plan on being viable in the future.

Innovation: Ideas will need to illustrate clearly how they are adding to their chosen field. There should be specificity about how they are innovative and why this represents a significant improvement or shift that is better than what exists. Orbit is conscious that innovation does not always mean a new idea and may be a better way of doing things for example; utilising technology to deliver greater engagement and therefore provable reduction in unitary costs per outcome. Note that this excludes ideas that directly challenge public services.

Capacity: Orbit will want to see that applicants are willing to participate in a innovative programme that is open to being both challenged and supported by Orbits management team. This should include to ability to be adaptable, flexible and above all open and transparent. Especially with early stage projects where success is not assured, Orbit wants relationships based on the principle of failing fast and learning fast. Partners should be prepared to share learning and learn from others openly.

Connecting Communities: activities and ideas that mobilise our customers to think of ways of sharing local resources as well as reciprocal models of support that enable people to get the help they need around issues that are a priority in their community. Creating enabling factors that allow for local individuals and groups to prepare for or respond to challenges within communities creating a community resilience.

Digital Action: We are also keen to see ideas that acutely harness the opportunities available through digital technology. Methods of harnessing talents that are aligned to the 21st Century lifestyle, particularly around the +55 age segment becoming more digitally engaged.

Complements not competes: solutions should enhance public services and provisions not replicate them. Early stage projects will realistically be using Orbit funding as a way to pilot a new ideas and test solutions that offer something that is different or needed. These ideas should emphasise their capacity and energy to scale. Ideas that are merely replicating already existing structures and models are unlikely to be considered.

Priority beneficiaries: As the source of funding comes from our customers, activities that can illustrate how Orbit customers are the main beneficiaries of the programmes will be prioritised. If your idea is based on an existing piece of work you will need to demonstrate you have the appropriate networks or channels to reach communities within Orbits management areas.

Impact and public benefit: Though we are interested in activities that can evidence improvements to our priority community investment themes, we also want to hear from groups and organisations which are outside of the third sector and feel that they can make positive contribution to the public benefit. Orbit is also keen on hearing about how you and your partners deliver currently in terms of social and public benefit.

2. Existing and New Ideas. Orbit envisages that this will attract many applicants looking to try something different and new. However we ask that you look at the criteria below and understand the subtle differences in what applicants will need to be able to evidence in regards to whether they are looking to expand on an existing idea or suggest something completely new. We should emphasise that in exceptional cases already established projects will in effect represent something innovative to Orbit in addressing a niche that we have not considered. We encourage partners to research our current projects as you may find that there are elements that we have not considered in our current project line up.

New Ideas

We actively encourage people to apply with concepts and ideas that are completely new. However we do expect applicants to have done some work in advance of their proposal. Therefore we are keen to see proposals that have demonstrated some very early stage development. You may not yet have a proven concept or have yet secured funding however it is important that these applications:

  • Illustrate clearly how their ideas align with Orbits community investment priorities.
  • How does this idea illustrate something new or innovative in comparison to what is already out there or within Orbit.
  • Established some benchmark evidence of need, as well as evidence of impact for the beneficiaries.
  • Have the structures, pipelines of networks within the local areas in which you wish to work.
  • Have capacity and appetite to work within the timelines and framework of the BDF.

Existing ideas

Existing ideas will be assessed in line with the criteria set for new ideas, however here there will be a need to provide performance measures based on existing work and how this supports your application.

  • Illustrate clearly how this idea has worked and will align with Orbits community investment priorities. Express any changes needed to ensure that it more accurately aligns with Orbits priorities.
  • How does this idea illustrate something new or innovative in comparison to what is already out there or within Orbit? Can you prove this based on the evidence of the works that you have.
  • Evidence the impact for the beneficiaries within the current project and how this will translate to Orbit.
  • Have the structures, pipelines of networks within the local areas in which you wish to work.
  • Have capacity and appetite to work within the timelines and framework of the BDF.

Both new and existing idea proposals will be selected according to how well they can illustrate:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Innovation
  3. Impact
  4. Seeding civic structures of support and creating resilient communities.
  5. How well they align to Orbit community investment themes

3. Seeding civic support structures. Essentially about how your project will pay it forward by encouraging peer to peer support structures. This includes the active use of volunteers to leave behind resilience within the communities.  Depending on how far into the project cycle your idea is we will want to understand how you intend to mobilise the use of volunteers to your programme. We are looking for projects that make communities more resourceful and as well as more empowered to take action. We are also keen to ensure that there is more widespread knowledge of where people can obtain help if needed.

4. We can only support projects that are in our community management areas.

5. We can only fund projects that advance public benefit. This includes public bodies, charities, TSOs, social enterprises. For profit organisations may apply for this funding so long as they have strong evidence of how their proposals will have public benefit.

Orbit may impose restrictions and conditions on for profit organisations pertaining to private benefit and profit derived from our funding. Orbit may ask for profit businesses given a grant to make technology developed freely available, as well as to invest profits from commercial exploitation back into the project to deliver greater public benefit or a return of a share of the profits back into Orbits community investment fund as inward investment. Please contact us if you have any questions in this regard.

6. We can support incorporated entities and unincorporated associations with formal membership structures.

7. Orbit will also consider applications from individuals. Orbit may place conditions on the grant award requiring you to form an incorporated entity or membership association. Note that Orbit may impose restrictions and conditions on how funds are dispersed. Orbit will not pay individuals and customers directly.

8. A number of organisations can put forward a joint proposal, where one organisation is designated as the lead and takes responsibility for the other organisations.

9. Organisations should ensure that they are conscious of limitations on their ability to source funds and ensure that they are not in breach of receiving funds that constitute approvable state aid.

10. Though applicants can come from any part of the UK projects can only be implemented in Orbit management areas.

11. We cannot fund innovations that are party political or which support or promote religious activity.

12. Grant awards can only fund limited paid for marketing and advertising. This must be clearly laid out in the proposal and financial statements of the application.

Community Investment Priorities

Though Orbit has broken down its investment priorities into distinct themes there is a tacit acceptance that peoples wellbeing is not as reductive and simple. This schema helps focus our funding to specific areas that lead to incremental gains that combine to create significant impact. It may be useful when designing projects to see what other projects Orbit funds, what local services are available and how your project adds to that matrix to deliver on that positive journey. It therefore is important to recognise that projects that focus on a theme will often bisect across multiple themes in their efforts. This is actively encouraged as it is to ensure that you make clear how your project will signpost, align and lean on additional support mechanisms that encourage greater success.


Orbit is keen to support programmes that allow for its customers to participate in a mainstream financial system that accommodates everyone regardless of their income and status. This is essential for anyone wanting to participate fully and fairly in everyday life. People excluded from or without access to mainstream financial services tend to pay more for goods and services and tend to have less choice. The impacts of exclusion are not just financial but affect education, employment, health, housing and their overall wellbeing.

Financial exclusion affects a wide range of people at different times in their lives, but disproportionally impacts people with low or unstable incomes that have experienced significant life shock. At risk groups of financial exclusion include lone parents, single pensioners, migrants, long term sick or disabled, long term unemployed, part-time workers and households headed by students.



  • UK ranked ninth in terms of banking inclusion by World bank.

  • 1.5 million adults remain unbanked in Britain.

  • Half of the unbanked would like a bank account.

  • 50% of the newly banked have incurred penalty fees, with those affected averaging 5.6 charges per year. 26% of these are ‘net losers’ incurring more penalty charges than gains in savings.

  • About half of people with basic accounts choose to manage their money in cash.

  • Customer satisfaction levels are below 60% for the four largest providers.

  • Between 1989 and 2012 more than 40% of all bank and building society branches have closed. Low income areas have disproportionately borne the brunt of these closures.

  • An estimated 2 million people took out a high cost loan in 2012 as they were unable to access other forms of credit, though this has dropped from its peak as a result of caps.

  • Unsecured consumer credit has tripled in 20 years

  • An estimated 49-64% of households in the UK hold some form of unsecured credit



  • Over 10 million people in the UK do not have enough savings to support them for one month if they experience a shock cut to their incomes

  • Under half of all UK households are saving

  • UK saves less than almost any other EU country

  • Half of the households in the bottom half of the income distribution lack home contents insurance, compared to 1 in 5 households on average incomes

  • Households with no home contents insurance were more than three times likely to be burgled than those with insurance.


  • Between 2007 and 2016 real wages have fallen by 10.4%

  • The internet was used daily or almost daily by 82% of adults in the UK in 2016. Compared to 78% in 2015 and 35 % in 2006. Regular internet use continues to rise with more than 8 in 10 people going online everyday in 2016. 70% of adults accessed the internet on the go using a mobile phone or smartphone.

  • Just over 2 million people will need budgeting support as universal credit beds in and shifts to direct payments.

  Digital Technology represents both a tremendous equaliser and barrier. Orbit is keen on activities, products and programmes that bridge the digital divide. The shift of focus to digital first is pervasive in virtually all aspects of life, this includes how Orbit is transforming how we interact with our customers. Though age is a specifically significant factor this often combines with low incomes, disability, learning difficulties, ethnic origin, location, culture and often language. The largest impacts will be on access to government services as increasingly these are being shifted to self-serve online channels. People who are digitally excluded are likely to be disproportionally heavy users of government services and needing significant support around financial advice. Among low-income groups the most significant barrier to overcome by low-income groups tends to be motivation. We are keen to see innovation that gets past stereotypes and recognises that although internet usage is ubiquitous in our daily lives many people are not confident that they have the necessary skills to make the most of it. Projects need to work alongside our core Orbit projects such as At Home Support and our Super Surfer Grants. Employment Orbit has experiences the positive benefits that its internal employment services delivers that bolsters the theoretical framework about the correlation of work and well-being. This is supported by extensive background evidence. Generally employment is the most important means of obtaining adequate economic resources that are essential to the material well-being and full participation in todays society. It is also generally accepted that work meets important psychological needs and is central to an individual’s identity, social roles and social status. Employment and socio-economic status form the main bulwark of drivers in social gradients in physical, mental health and mortality. Conversely there is strong evidence between unemployment and poor health. Clearly employment most acutely bisects all the core priority investment themes. Realistically Orbit appreciates that environmental factors and national policy are areas that most projects will be unable to affect. However we are looking for ways that projects can enhance our employment offers and leverages our employment offer to achieve greater customer outcomes. Wellbeing We are keen to ensure that we have a broad spectrum of projects across all priority themes. However a significant number of projects fall under the umbrella of wellbeing. Largely this is because the meaning of wellbeing is subjective and widely contested. Though Orbit appreciates that there is no single determinant of wellbeing, in general we assume it to be a result of good health, positive social relationships, and the availability and access to basic resources. This broad definition is both an inherent strength and limitation. Therefore Orbit will want people who apply under the priority theme to have very clear definitions of what they mean by wellbeing. Applicants will have to be very precise in their measures, outcomes and methodologies. We will be specifically focused on projects that utilise both subjective (self reports) and objective (household income, employment) measures when assessing wellbeing. Child Poverty In 2016 Orbit set out an ambitious challenge within the housing sector with the launch of their Creating Chances for Future Generations setting out a road map for how the housing sector can work together to tackle child poverty and create an environment for future generations to thrive. Statistics from Orbit show that 24% of children in our communities are growing up in poverty, as situation that will inevitably worsen as many more households have their income impacted by the benefit cap, with the largest families hardest hit. Housing associations impact on a significant number of children’s lives. Therefore, we need to ensure we are providing services and homes that meet the needs of the generations now and in the future to reduce the number of those living in poverty. We know that good housing directly affects a child’s health and wellbeing, and can influence access to wider social, economic and educational opportunities. Quality housing breeds stability for families and creates and environment for children to fulfil their potential. Housing providers have a duty to play their part in breaking this cycle of poverty. Orbit’s community investment team is well placed to ensure that we help deliver on these aims, taking the lessons learnt and knowledge gained and feed this back into our developments.

Our work is guided by research, evidence-based programmes and evaluations. This research has been influential in our thinking and approach to Building Communities.

Housing directly affects a child’s health and sense of wellbeing as well as access to wider social and economic opportunities. There are around 4 million UK children currently living in poverty. This is estimated to increase by a further 1m over the next four years. As one of the UK’s largest housing providers, Orbit provides homes for around 16,000 children under the age of 16. Earlier this year we embarked on a journey to find out more about these children, their parents and what life is like for them. We found lone parent and children households were four times more...

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With isolation and loneliness recognised as major challenges, and widening inequalities and social polarisation, now is the time to be focusing on kindness. A focus on our responsibilities and abilities as individuals and our power to make a difference.

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Poverty is one of the world’s most complicated problems, and there are no easy answers or magic bullet solutions (if there were, we would not be writing this paper). Global economic trends, including the recent recession, and systemic forces such as racism and classism contribute to the current state of affairs. A true end to poverty will require some combination of widely available jobs that pay living wages, safe and affordable housing, an accessible and affordable healthcare system, widespread access to credit and financial markets, and the elimination of the “poverty traps” that decrease the labor supply. Any one of...

Poverty Interrupted Applying Behavioral Science to the Context of Chronic Scarcity
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Since Orbit commission this work, the lessons learnt and the challenges faced by the sector have not diminished substantially. The effects of the substantial impact of the economic crisis persist, and this is compounded by radical changes in their operating environment. Associations are having to manage a careful balancing act between social, entrepreneurial and business activities. The major challenges include: • Maintaining frontline services while streamlining management operations to reduce costs and retain viability in the face of funding cuts; • Reconciling the needs of low income tenants living in social rented homes with the cumulative impacts of housing and...

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The Connected Communities approach: some fundamentals The vision of ‘Connected Communities’ is one in which people are embedded within local networks of social support; in which social isolation is reduced and people experience greater wellbeing and other benefits from the better understanding, mobilisation and growth of ‘community capital’ in their neighbourhoods. ‘Connected Communities’ is an approach to making change in communities based on the relationships and strengths that individuals and communities have and need. It is based on work originally carried out by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), Centre for Citizenship at the University of Central Lancashire, and the...

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We are keen to hear from both established programme providers and groups with new ideas. People who have already done some great work and whose ideas offer us a fresh approach to problem solving are welcome, as are those just starting out who have a well thought out idea that needs support to get off the ground.

We prioritise projects that are designed around a strong volunteering model. These projects create a civic responsibility and empower our communities to be more resilient and enable them to better deal with crisis or shock. In resilient communities, citizens are able and willing to share resources, including help and support. Orbit wants to bolster programmes that help promote the idea that individuals can be active and creative in meeting their needs and achieving their goals.  

All projects have to illustrate their direct benefits to Orbit customers.  Due to the difference in funding amounts there is no set minimum number of beneficiaries. We expect applicants to be realistic in balancing their targets to the funding amount that they are requesting.  We will work with successful applicants on setting targets that we both agree are realistic and appropriate to the funding requested. 

Successful projects tend to be those that combine our data, external data and user (beneficiary) input. We will assess applications based on how well they illustrate this. In particular instances this may need to work along our support a bid page where applications may be put to a vote that illustrates demand or support of that project.

The application process is open to all types of organisation that can illustrate a public benefit and are not purely for profit.  We will, of course, support social enterprises that will reinvest surpluses into generating a larger social impact.

If you are an individual please contact the Community Investment team to discuss our requirements on how to move forward with your application.

Yes.  However you can only do one application in each priority investment theme.

Unfortunately we don’t to give feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Orbit customers are the focus and net beneficiaries of any funding we award. This limits our scope to only our management areas.

This will be assessed on an application by application basis as well as depend on the funding amount being requested.  It should be noted that in illustrating sustainability, applicants are encouraged to inform us of any match funding that they have both secured and unsecured. We ask for this within the application form.

Some projects, like set challenges, have unique deadlines attached to them.  Other challenges are open for the lifecycle of the fund which is scheduled to run to October 2018 or until we reach our funding cap.

Applicants will have until October 2018 to spend the funding.

Yes. However we cannot fund activity that is inherently religious, such as religious worship, instruction or proselytising.