The Global Challenge

The Global Challenge is a chance for students and recent graduates to learn more about the issues they care about and present their findings to the world.

Tackling global challenges starts with understanding a problem and its wider context, rather than jumping straight into a business plan or an idea for a quick fix. Participants are asked to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental issue by mapping out the landscape of the current solutions and identifying missing opportunities for positive change.

Winners will be invited to attend the Skoll World Forum and all finalists will have an opportunity to apply for further funding to directly ‘apprentice with a problem’ in a global location relating to their chosen topic.


Key Dates

19th January to 27 April 2016


Applications are now closed to the 2016 Global Challenge.


Entries can be submitted by individuals or groups up to three people (with the exception of current Oxford students that are submitting as a GOTO team).  In 2016 (the pilot year), we were only able to accept submissions from teams where at least one member was a current student or 2015 alumni from Oxford University or Sunway University. We are looking to expand this eligibility requirements for next year.

Sign up to receive updates about next year’s competition.

May 2016

Mentoring & Design experts (restricted to 10 finalists)

The 10 finalists will be offered mentoring and be given access to design experts to help develop their research further in order to prepare for their final round submissions.

Mid-June 2016

Pitching Event

All finalists will be invited to present their submissions to our panel of judges on our pitch day in mid-June. Prizes will then be awarded.



Winners of the Global Challenge will receive cash prizes and the best submission will win tickets to the Skoll World Forum 2017  (including a subsidy for travel costs). The top 10 Finalists will also be invited to apply for further funding through our ‘Apprenticing with the Problem’ fund. This fund will be used to facilitate further research on the chosen topic (including travel) or for other development opportunities (e.g. coaching, books, research support, personal development courses).


£2,000 cash prize

Skoll World Forum 2017 tickets including some travel subsidy

‘Apprenticing with a Problem’ funding (subject to application)


£1,000 cash prize

‘Apprenticing with a Problem’ funding (subject to application)


£500 cash prize

‘Apprenticing with a Problem’ funding (subject to application)


Additional Prizes

In addition to the main prizes highlighted above there is also an opportunity to win an additional sector-prize for those applications that explore a topic in ‘art, culture, and humanities’ (check the FAQ for further information and guidelines for this additional prize).  A total of £5,000 is available for successful art, culture, and humanities application to be divided as follows:

£1,500 cash prize; and

Up to £3,500 ‘Apprenticing with a Problem’ funding (subject to application).

Research Opportunities

Family Care First (FCF) is a collective impact initiative focused on reducing the number of children outside of family care in Cambodia. The first phase of FCF is funded by USAID and GHR Foundation.

There is an opportunity for a student with an interest in social work, cross-sector collaboration, social change for complex problems, or social entrepreneurship to develop a research project that would directly feed into the work of the FCF platform (and the Global Challenge competition). The student would work together with the Global Alliance for Children to develop an appropriate research question, and develop and conduct their research.

Contact Rick ( directly if you are interested in developing an application connected to FCF.






Jessamyn Shams-Lau

Jessamyn Shams-Lau

Executive Director, Peery Foundation

Jessamyn Shams-Lau joined the Peery Foundation as its first staff member in 2009, helping to shape the foundation’s initial strategy and portfolios. Currently, as Executive Director, Jessamyn is responsible for supporting the Peery Foundation team, guiding overall strategy, and developing a grantee-centric approach across the foundation’s portfolios. Jessamyn utilizes her experience as part of the founding Ashoka U team in her hands-on role as a Board Member of BU’s Ballard Center, where she has created curriculum now taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Jessamyn has a BA in Fine Arts from the University of the Arts London and an MBA from Brigham Young University.

Daniela Papi-Thornton

Daniela Papi-Thornton

Deputy Director, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

After getting her MBA at Oxford through the Skoll Scholarship, Daniela worked as a consultant to the Skoll Centre and a number of social impact organisations, from companies looking to examine their philanthropy models to social enterprises redesigning their strategy to align with their impact, before moving into the Centre’s role of Deputy Director. Prior to coming to the UK, Daniela founded PEPY Tours, an educational travel company and PEPY, a youth leadership and education organisation in Cambodia. Through this work, she became passionate about improving the impact of volunteer travel, and she has teamed up with others working on educational resources. She is currently part of the Clore Social Leadership Programme.

Jane Leu

CEO & Founder, Smarter Good

Jane Leu is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow with more than 20 years of experience in founding and leading social ventures. She is the Founder/CEO of Smarter Good, a global services firm with a dual mission to improve the efficiency and impact of small nonprofit organizations and create purposeful careers for aspiring changemakers in emerging markets. She is the Founder and former CEO of Upwardly Global, a national organization that integrates skilled immigrants into the US workforce, the co-Founder of the Craigslist nonprofit venture forum, a member of the founding team of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and Executive-in-Residence of Ashoka U, Ashoka’s university division.

Dr François Bonnici

Director, Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

As well as being the founding Director of the Bertha Centre François is also a board member of the newly formed Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education. His career, spanning 17 years, includes working in clinical medicine, humanitarian & development programmes, public private partnerships and innovative social change projects. He has been recognised as a Rhodes Scholar; Global Leadership Fellow of the World Economic Forum; Archbishop Tutu African Leadership Fellow and was awarded the inaugural Social Innovation Leadership Award at the African Leadership Awards in 2015. François is a Gold Medal graduate from the medical school at UCT, has a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and an MBA from the University of Oxford where he graduated top of his class.


Pamela Hartigan

Director, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Pamela Hartigan has been the Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship since 2009. She is also founding partner of Volans, an organisation building innovative scalable solutions to challenges affecting our future. Prior to starting Volans, Dr. Hartigan spent eight years as the first Managing Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum. She has been responsible for conceptualising and creating new organisations, departments and programmes across a variety institutional arrangements and multi-stakeholder platforms. A graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington DC, she also holds Masters’ degrees in Economics and Public Health and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology.

Alexander Goodenough

Investment Director, Big Society Capital

Alex joined the Investment Team of Big Society Capital in 2012, the social investment wholesaler established to catalyse the development of the social investment market in the UK. Alex leads Big Society Capital’s work to support the growth of the Charity Bond market in the UK and in developing the role of social investment within the Education sector. Alex is also Non-Executive Director at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Limited, a social enterprise in London supporting the work of St Martin-in-the-Fields and homelessness charity, the Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields. Prior to joining Big Society Capital, Alex worked at UBS Investment Bank in London and graduated with first class honours in Economics and Economic History from the University of Warwick.