Frequently Asked Questions

About Map the System

What is Map the System?

Map the System is a competition that asks 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.

This approach was developed by Daniela Papi-Thornton as part of her research on “Tackling Heropreneurship”.

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 – economic forces, political movements or global trends. It gives us the tools to understand the whole picture and takes us out of our silos.

Who runs Map the System?

Map the System is run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, in partnership with educational institutions across the world who each run the competition 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.

Map the System originated from research conducted by Daniela Papi-Thornton, former 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“.

Questions About Taking Part

Who is eligible to enter the competition?

You can apply for Map the System as an individual or in a team of up to 5 people.

At least one member of the team must be a current student at a partner institution (enrolled on a course of 6 months or longer), OR a recent graduate of a partner institution (having completed studies within 12 months of the date you register for the competition).

Students may be at undergraduate, diploma, postgraduate or doctoral level.

Your institution may have additional eligibility criteria. Please get in touch with your local Map the System contact for further information.

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 Map the System, 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 individuals and teams of up to five.

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.

I participated in last year’s Map the System competition. Can I participate again this year?

If you participated in the competition previously, you may enter again this year provided you were not the recipient of a prize at the Global Final. You may re-enter with the same topic or a different one – however, if you choose the same topic, you will need to demonstrate significant progress in your research and understanding of the topic since last year. You may not simply re-submit the same materials you submitted previously – if you do so your entry will not be considered.

If you were the recipient of 1st, 2nd or 3rd prize at last year’s Global Final, you may not re-enter the competition this year.

What is an appropriate scope for my topic?

See our Submission Guidelines page, which has detailed guidance on how to select your topic.

If you are still not sure about your topic, get in touch with the Map the System contact at your institution and they may be able to advise you.

What are the dates for this competition?

See our Take Part page, where you can view the timeline for the competition.

What are the marking criteria?

See our Submission Guidelines page, which includes the full marking criteria and explains what the judges will be looking for.

What are the prizes?

Following the Global Final on 5 -7 June 2020, the top three entries of Map the System will receive cash prizes:

1st Prize – £4,000 cash prize
2nd Prize – £3,000 cash prize
3rd Prize – £2,000 cash prize

In addition, your institution may provide its own prizes and development opportunities to finalists – please talk to the Map the System contact at your institution to learn more.

Does this count for university credit?

Some institutions have incorporated this competition into a for-credit programme. Please check with the Map the System contact at your institution and they will be able to advise you.

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.

I already have a business idea/proposed solution in mind for my topic area. To what extent should I focus on it in my submission?

This is not a business plan competition, but there are thousands of such competitions available around the world. If you are already deep into your solution and looking to design the specifics of a social intervention, business plan, or non-profit start-up and are looking for funding, mentorship, or support to start your project, then you should consider entering a different type of competition. However, if you are already thinking about a solution but are interested in taking a step back and learning more about the problem and landscape of other solutions already being tried, then Map the System is for you.

After learning about the problem and landscape of current solutions, you are asked to identify “impact gaps.” Depending on what you find in your research, you might find that one of the gaps you identify is indeed related to the solution you had in mind before starting this competition. You are welcome to include it in your presentation and explain how your learning from the mapping process would aid the design of such an intervention, but to be successful in the Map the System process, you will also need to identify a range of other impact gaps. You might include information about gaps in government regulation, opportunities for knowledge sharing or improvements to existing efforts, or other ideas for new interventions.

If you focus ONLY on “your” solution to the problem, you will not be successful in this process. But if you use the Map the System process to learn a lot more about your chosen issue, it should contribute to your ability to come up with a successful intervention in the future – whether that is an internship or job opportunity you discover through this process, or a new venture you launch related to this topic in the future.

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. By entering this competition, you grant the Map the System team the right to publish your work on this website.

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 20-50 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 (suggested formats are PowerPoint, Prezi, PDF or jpg – but other visual formats are acceptable)

(2) An analysis of your research and key findings (not exceeding 3,000 words, excluding footnotes and citations) – required formats are Word, PDF, PowerPoint or Prezi

(3) A bibliography

Finalists will also be required to prepare a short presentation for purposes of the presentation 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, University of Oxford, a royalty-free, perpetual license to share and publish any portion of your submission.

What happens after I submit my materials?

Each institution will have a panel of judges who will review and select their students’ entries to Map the System. Your institution may hold a local presentation event, or select the winner through review of submissions alone.

Once selected, your institution’s winning team or individual will be invited to the Global Final event in Oxford. Finalists will be notified by 8 May 2020 at the latest.

Questions About The Global Final

Where and when will the Global Final be held?

The Global Final will take place on 5-7 June 2020 at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK.

When will I find out if I’ve made it through to the Global Final?

One team/individual from each institution will be selected to progress to the Global Final where they will compete with teams from all over the world for the three top prizes. Finalists will be informed by their institution no later than 8 May 2020.

What is the format of the Global Final event?

One team from each participating institution will present their research to a panel of judges at the Global Final. The approximate agenda of the event will be:

Day One (Friday 7 June): The activities on Day One will be geared towards helping you perfect your presentation, connect with other participants, and prepare for the main presentations the next day. There will be a welcome and introduction from the Skoll Centre team, followed by informal networking activities and an opportunity to sign up for a practice presentation slot with one of our mentors.

Day Two (Saturday 8 June): Round 1 presentations. All teams are given a slot to present to a panel of judges. After all teams have presented, 6 teams will be selected to progress to the final round on Day Three. In the evening, all finalists are invited to attend a formal Oxford College dinner.

Day Three (Sunday 9 June): Round 2 presentations. The 6 selected teams will present again to a panel of judges and an external audience. All participants are invited to join in watching the final presentations and cheer on the finalists. After the presentations, the three winners will be announced and prizes awarded, which will be followed by a closing drinks reception. The final round of presentations will also be filmed so that people around the world can view the presentations after the event.

A more detailed agenda will be provided to finalists a few weeks before the event.

How long should my presentation last?

At the Global Final, each team will have 10 minutes to deliver their presentation, followed by approximately 5-7 minutes of Q&A from the judges.

Do all members of my team need to present?

You can choose who from your team does the presenting — this could be one, two, or all members of your team. However, ALL members of the team should be in attendance during the presentation(s) and prepared to answer questions during the judges’ Q&A.

Who will be the judges?

Judges are expected to be announced a few months before the Global Final event.

Take a look at last year’s judging panel to find out who has participated in the past.

Can guests attend the Global Final?

Guests are welcome to attend the final round of presentations on Sunday 7 June 2020. Registration for the event is free – details of how to register will be shared a few weeks before the event. Guests’ travel and accommodation is at their own expense.

Questions From Educational Institutions

How can I run Map the System at my institution?

If you work for a post-secondary education institution, you can register to become a Map the System partner up until 30 October 2019. Once registered, we will send you the tools you need to run the competition at your institution and you will receive on-going support from the Skoll Centre team.

Click here for more details and to register your institution.

If your institution is unable to participate in this year’s competition but you are interested in partnering with us in future, please get in touch with us at

What is the cost for institutions?

This is a not-for-profit initiative and we aim to keep costs as low as possible for participating institutions. We ask each institution to contribute £2,000 to cover core competition costs such as content development, final event costs, the costs to bring in high-calibre global judges, and sufficient prize money. In addition, partner institutions should cover the travel costs of the individual or team that they send to the final in June 2020.

Fee waivers are occasionally granted to institutions taking part in Map the System who can demonstrate significant financial need or members of the GNAM network. To discuss this possibility, please email us.”

What are the criteria for institutions to participate in the competition?

We invite institutions to partner with us who meet the following criteria:

– It must be a post-secondary educational institution offering courses of 6 months or longer.

– It must have internal capacity to support students throughout the cycle of the competition (mid-September 2019 to mid-June 2020). As a guide, we recommend a minimum of one staff member to support the administrative process (estimated time commitment 50-70 hours total) AND one educator to advise students on the content of their submissions and provide feedback (estimated time commitment 15-20 hours).

– Each institution must commit to securing at least 3 registrations from teams/individuals at their institution, from which it will use the judging criteria provided to select one winner to progress to the Global Final event.

– Each institution must commit funds for the registration fee, as well as the cost of sending the winning team/individual to Oxford (including accommodation costs) for the Global Final from 5-7 June 2020.

Participating institutions may choose whether to incorporate Map the System into their for-credit curriculum or run it as an extracurricular programme.

Can I speak to someone to discuss the programme in more detail?

Yes, please contact and our team will be happy to arrange a call to discuss further.


If you have a question that hasn’t been answered above, please contact