Are you helping develop the skills needed for everyone to play an active role in the economy of tomorrow?

We are in an unprecedented time of change. The future is both exciting and daunting. 

Now, more than ever, having the right skills to succeed is vitally important to ensure everyone can thrive. 

Ashoka and HSBC recognize the power of social entrepreneurs to help develop the skills needed to plan for a successful future, both financially and through meaningful employment. 

That’s why we have launched the Future Skills Innovation Challenge, an international competition aimed at recognising, supporting and nurturing the best social entrepreneurs and their innovations. 

We're looking for the innovators building a future where everyone has the skills needed to thrive.

We are currently reviewing our 50 semi-finalists, and will soon be selecting our 12 winners

What are future skills?

These are competencies that increase financial capability and employability — equipping our communities to play an active role in the economy of the future. 

Financial capability means having the skills, attitudes and tools needed to manage money effectively. 

Employability is a set of achievements, understandings and attributes that make individuals more likely to gain employment and to be successful in their chosen occupations. 

To thrive in the future, communities and individuals will need these essential skills. 


We hope to be surprised by the ideas we receive. But to give you a bit of steer on the sorts of solutions we’re excited by: 

Within the topic of Financial Capability we love innovations such as: 

  • Digital solutions which empower people with the knowledge and skills to manage their money effectively. 
  • Innovations that change people's behaviours and enable them to be financially healthy. 

Within the topic of Employability we love innovations such as: 

  • Entrepreneurs who focus on developing innovative, high-quality future skills training that will skill, reskill and upskill people. 
  • Ideas that help people foster the mindset of continuous learning - especially in industries that are most vulnerable to the effects of automation. 

To apply:  

  • You must have incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization.  
  • You must be over 18 by the time you apply.  
  • If your product has not launched, you must have a business plan and MVP (prototype, pilot, or another proof of concept).  
  • Entries will only be accepted in English (winners will be expected to engage in activities that require English proficiency).  
  • We are open to entries from the following markets: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK (inc Channel Islands), USA, Vietnam.

Additional terms:  

  • Only one application per initiative will be accepted  
  • Employees of HSBC advertising agencies, promotion agencies and other service providers for this Challenge, their immediate family members (spouse, parent, child, sibling, regardless of where they reside) are not eligible.  
  • Partners or initiatives that are already financed or supported by HSBC its affiliates, subsidiaries or joint ventures are not eligible 

Partnership and Challenge Page Launches – 16th December, 2019 

Entries Open - 6th January, 2020

Entry Phase – 6th January to 2nd March, 2020

Screening  & Peer Review – 4th March  to 27th March, 2020

Semi-finalists Announced  -  27th March, 2020

Refining – 30th March  - 10th April, 2020

Shortlisting  - 13th April – 24th April, 2020

Judges Panel and Due Diligence – 28th April to 15th May, 2020

Winners announcement – Late May, 2020

All applicants will: 

  • Have the opportunity to receive peer feedback via the prize online platform, including the opportunity to view, review and connect with other applicants of the Future Skills Challenge. 
  • Receive feedback from Ashoka and/or HSBC representatives.   

Up to 50 semi-finalists will:   

  • Have an opportunity to refine entries and incorporate feedback received in the screening phase  Receive additional feedback from experts from HSBC & Ashoka  
  • Be referred as semi-finalists in the announcement communications  
  • Access a call for semi-finalists to connect with peers  


There will be 12 challenges winners, across 3 categories: 

-Most scalable solutions-

  • Awarded to solutions with proven models who have potential to begin scaling their impact.
  • Winners receive and up to $25k cash prize plus support & mentoring from HSBC and Ashoka on how to scale and raise additional finance. 

-Most innovative solutions-

  • Awarded to solutions with an innovative use of technology. 
  • Winners receive up to $20k cash prize plus support & mentoring to help develop their innovation.  

-Best early-stage ideas-

  • Awarded to solutions with highly innovative ideas which are still at an early-stage.  
  • Winners receive up to $12.5k cash prize plus support & mentoring to develop their idea. 

We will assess all applications based on 4 criteria:


Leading entries will demonstrate how they are making a positive social impact under one of the following themes associated with Future Skills: Financial capability, digital reskilling and upskilling, "human" reskilling, and job creation.   

Competitive applicants will be able to provide qualitative and quantitative metrics used to track progress. Initiatives should also describe the innovation’s potential impact on the future and how they are addressing the root cause of the problem.   


Leading entries will have an original and creative approach, which might involve inventing something new, a novel use of digital technology, or applying existing approaches in new ways or to a new context. We are particularly interested in models that use fresh approaches to spark mindset shifts that lead to widespread change.   

Financial and Operational Sustainability

Applicants must have realistic plans for how to continue to create impact in the long-term through mobilizing resources such as funding, financing, teams, partnerships, or support networks. Entries should describe not only how they currently finance their work, but also how they plan to finance it in the future. 

Changemaking Activation

The initiative's strategy includes an approach that empowers and multiplies changemakers, through inspiring stories, mobilizing and sharing resources or other approaches that lead to an increased number of changemakers in the world.   

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

We follow a process with phases. Currently we are in the Winners Announced phase. We have selected and announced the best ideas for this challenge.
192 ideas
145 final ideas
49 final ideas
49 final ideas
12 final ideas


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