Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Global Challenge?

The Global Challenge is a new type of competition that asks both students and educators to think differently about social and environmental change.

We are asking you to select a social or environmental issue and to explore, probe and research all the connecting elements and factors around it. We want you to present this issue back to us in a way that people can understand, share, and learn from.

Why this approach?

We believe social entrepreneurship education can be improved. We know there are increasing numbers of students across the globe interested in entrepreneurship for systems-change – there are hack-a-thons, start-up weekends, and business plan competitions – all asking students for their solutions to social and/or environmental problems through new enterprises.

But social transformation doesn’t happen in a silo, nor does it come from one person or one great idea. And often students are proposing solutions to problems that they have no lived experience of, and don’t fully understand.

We want to encourage and develop a learning-first approach to social change, where people understand and build upon existing efforts before starting something new. In addition, we want to promote a new type of funding – an “apprenticing with a problem” approach where academic institutions no longer just fund business plan competitions but also provide funds for students to go out and learn about and “apprentice” with the problems they care about before trying to “solve” them.

This approach was developed by Daniela Papi-Thornton as part of her research on “Tackling Heropreneurship”, which you can learn more about here.

Why use a mapping approach to solving problems?

Social change is complicated. Mapping is a way of understanding its complexities. It allows us to think about context and the many interacting factors that contribute to the development of the issues facing us – be they political or economic forces or global trends. It gives us the tools to understand the whole picture and takes us out of our silos.

Who runs the Global Challenge?

The Global Challenge is run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, in partnership with 24 universities across the world who each run the Challenge at their institution.

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship works to accelerate ‘entrepreneuring’ activity that seeks to transform unjust and unsatisfactory systems and practices. We are an integral part of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; promoting positive social transformation through developing talent, facilitating research and fostering collaboration among business, policy, academic and social leaders.

The Global Challenge originated from research conducted by Daniela Papi-Thornton, Deputy Director of the Skoll Centre, funded by the Clore Social Leadership Programme. You can learn more about Daniela’s research and read the report, “Tackling Heropreneurship”, here.

Can I choose my own issue?

Yes, you can decide your own issue to explore. Please see the guidance about question scope provided in the next question.

What is an appropriate scope for my topic?

Start from what you are passionate about – water scarcity or youth unemployment, for example. Then begin to narrow your topic; this could be around a region or demographic, a particular manifestation of the problem (scarcity affecting agriculture; increasing levels of youth depression and anxiety), or a family of solutions (water pumps, advocacy, consumer awareness, support groups, technical training, apprenticeships in industries etc.).

Many entries will have a regional, national, or even local focus. However, this is not a requirement: you could, for instance, focus on the impact of water scarcity or youth unemployment at a global level and focus on advocacy-based solutions that aim to change national policy in different countries.

The best presentations will be thorough and describe gaps and opportunities in the current solutions landscape. After you begin your research, ensure that you can do a thorough analysis of the problem and solutions in the time available. If you can’t, narrow your topic further!

Still not sure about your topic? Get in touch with the Global Challenge contact at your institution who will be able to advise you. In addition, they can provide some initial feedback on your registration form submitted (up until 20 December 2016) so the earlier you send in your initial application proposal, the better.

What are the dates for this competition?

See our How to Apply page, where you can view the timeline for the competition.

What are the marking criteria?

Your submission will be judged against the following three main criteria:


To truly understand the ecosystem of a problem , you will have to go beyond simple web searches and a casual skim of websites. You will certainly explore the well-known organisations working to tackle your chosen issue, but the best submissions will also identify important but less famous resources and rising stars. Remember, information about programmes under development and challenges organisations have faced are not typically listed on company websites. You should contact organisations and interview people to find out more. You might want to seek out independent assessments of the organisations in addition to their own claims.


The best submissions will be interesting to review, easy to follow and presented in a compelling way that invites action. If you are selected as a finalist, you will have the opportunity to work with a designer to provide ideas about how you might illustrate your findings. The audience for your presentation should be other practitioners interested in entering this field. Ensure that you explain the problem, define any specialist terms, and limit the use of unnecessary jargon or acronyms.


We reward teams whose submissions go beyond describing the problem and the existing solutions. To stand out, you will explain, for example, how several organisations would benefit from merging; how the sector in question could borrow a service model from another; what key research is missing to fuel change; or how effective government action could eliminate the need for a number of activities altogether. You might also identify a market opportunity and or the possibility to scale an existing effort through partnerships, franchising, or replication through education. Your overall goal is to provide actionable insights for those currently or wanting to work in this sector.

Evaluation Criteria

Each of the following 5 criteria will be scored individually (points range 1 to 4).  The questions under each criteria provide examples of some of the areas to consider in scoring the criteria.  It is not intended that every application is able to satisfy all of the questions in order to get a strong rating as some of them may not be relevant to the research topic selected.

Criteria 1: Understanding of the problem

Does the application present a macro view of the sector (including an outline of the scale of the problem) with justification for the geography selected?

Does the application demonstrate an understanding of the depth, complexity and key risks (including critical government, country or economic risks) of the problem identified?

Does the application address the key underlying drivers of the problem? Including linking these drivers to the proposed levers of change?

Does the application clearly demonstrate an understanding of all key stakeholders affected by the problem (directly and indirectly)?

Does the application outline a hypothesis as to when the problem started occurring and why it persists?

Criteria 2: Understanding of the solutions landscape

Does the application clearly articulate the overall solutions landscape in a concise and descriptive way, including acknowledgement of a diverse range of existing players, resources and networks?

Does the application demonstrate a deeper understanding of the nature and diversity of the existing solutions, including an understanding of what has worked, what hasn’t and the change needed?

Criteria 3: Identification of Gaps

Does the application clearly identify any potential gaps, market opportunities or what is missing from the solutions landscape?

Criteria 4: Lessons & Levers of Change

Does the application demonstrate a deeper awareness and self-reflection of key lessons and insights derived from the research?

Does the application clearly outline what is missing (key levers of change) from the solutions landscape and actionable responses?

Does the application identify possible collaborations (private or public) to provide a more holistic solution?

Criteria 5: Research Approach & Presentation of Deliverables

Does the application demonstrate a diverse range of research sources (i.e. not only just desktop research but practitioner interviews too)?

Does the application demonstrate a pro-active and creative research methodology?

Do the ecosystem map/s submitted adequately reflect the necessary level of detail in a creative and insightful way?

Does the analysis of the research submitted provided sufficient detail to understand the research approach and methodology of the research undertaken, including a summary of key insights?

Has the application been adequately cited/referenced in the bibliography?

If you have further questions regarding the marking criteria feel free to contact us.

What are the prizes?

Prizes for the top three entries will be awarded following The Global Challenge Final on 30 April – 1 May, and include cash and tickets to the Skoll World Forum and the Emerge Conference. In addition, your institution may provide its own prizes and development opportunities to Global Challenge finalists – please talk to the Global Challenge contact at your institution to learn more.

Who is eligible?

At least one member of your team must be a current student at the University of Oxford or at any of our partner institutions, or a recent graduate of one of those institutions (i.e. you have completed your studies within 12 months of the date you register for the Challenge). Students may be at undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral level.

Your institution may have additional eligibility criteria so please get in touch with the Global Challenge contact at your institution in the first instance who will be able to advise you.

I am not a student at one of the participating institutions. Can I still enter?

If you are not a student or recent graduate at one of the institutions participating in the Global Challenge, you may still be able to enter by joining an existing team at one of those institutions. Please contact your nearest participating institution to see if there are opportunities to join a team.

Can I apply as an individual?

Yes, we accept submissions from both individuals and teams of up to three.

Can I participate in multiple teams?

Please contact us if you are interested in submitting multiple entries or joining multiple teams. We are happy to allow it if the situation merits it, but we suggest that winning teams will put significant effort into their entries and highly recommend you focus on one topic.

Does this count for university credit?

No, this is an opportunity that runs alongside your academic commitments.

Can I reuse work I have already submitted for a course, or work that I presented/published elsewhere?

You are welcome to reuse and build upon any of your own previous work. We ask that you cite all the sources that you use, including your own.

Will my submission be made public?

We will publish the submissions of the finalists on our website. We may also publish the submissions from other teams who submit high quality work.

How do I cite my sources? Can I use external media and graphics from other reports?

Whilst our recommendation is the Harvard citation method, please use whatever citation style you are most comfortable with. Where possible, include links so that your audience can navigate to the source themselves.

If you are inserting a chart or table borrowed from an external source in your presentation, please add a caption immediately next to it to show that it is from another source (e.g. “Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2012”). Also provide a link to the report or include a full citation in your references section.

If we decide to publish your work on our website, we will ask you to indicate if your submission contains any copyrighted work that we cannot re-publish without permission. For these references, we expect that you will work with us to either secure the appropriate rights, or replace the content with content that is freely available.

Be sure not to include confidential information in your submission (information that you are not permitted to disclose publicly). For example, you should not include information provided in a private interview if the interviewee was not made aware that you are planning to publish the information.

How much time should I budget for preparing my entry?

We expect that most teams will spend approximately 25-50 hours (per member) preparing the initial submission.

How long should my submission be?

For the final submission we require the following 3 components: (1) A visual ecosystem map/chart (the ecosystem maps provided in ‘Resources’ are merely example of the key questions to be addressed,  however any format will be accepted); (2) An analysis of your research and key findings (not exceeding 2,000 words, excluding footnotes and citations) – required formats are Word, PDF, PowerPoint or Prezi; and (3) A bibliography.

Finalists will also be required to prepare a short presentation for purposes of the pitch event – suggested format is PowerPoint or Prezi.

What are the terms and conditions that I need to agree to before submitting my entry?

By submitting an entry, you declare that your submission is entirely your work (except for the sources cited), and that the information presented is accurate to the best of your knowledge. You also grant the Saïd Business School a royalty-free, perpetual license to share and publish any portion of your submission.