How can innovations empower people from underserved communities to be the drivers of their own financial wellbeing, resilience, and freedom?

The Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, a collaboration of BNY Mellon and Ashoka, will support the most promising social entrepreneurs in the United States with bold ideas to increase financial wellbeing, ensuring communities can set financial goals, grow their personal savings, and access capital, credit, financial services, and products needed to thrive.

Top social entrepreneurs and their ventures will receive a total of $200,000 in funding, a collaborative digital platform to connect with peers, and feedback from the BNY Mellon and Ashoka team of thought leaders. Learn more about the full suite of awards below.

If you have an innovation for financial wellbeing we want to hear from you! Submit your venture by June 13, 2018 for a chance to scale your impact and create a strong financial future for all.

Ashoka Changemakers' “everyone’s a winner” approach aims to ensure that we’re creating value for all innovators that join our challenges, and enabling the creation of alliances in the effort to promote financial wellbeing for all communities.
Here’s a summary of the awards and benefits at each stage of the challenge:

All entrants receive:

  • Opportunity to participate in the peer review process, offering feedback to their peers and receiving feedback from peers
  • Feedback from Ashoka reviewers on their entry's highlights and areas for improvement
  • Invitations to join thematic online Ashoka Huddles as participants (virtual roundtables)
  • Exposure to selected pieces of content covering the topic of financial wellbeing
  • Exposure to original Ashoka and BNY Mellon Challenge Trends Report, resulting from the data collected and analyzed during the challenge process
  • Online support sessions during entry period, hosted by Ashoka with application best practices and Q&A

Drivers (Semi-Finalists) receive all of the above, plus:

  • Opportunity to refine their entries and incorporate insights from reviewers and peer feedback
  • Feedback from BNY Mellon employees and Ashoka staff on their edited entry form
  • Additional online support session during refining phase
  • Access to an exclusive Drivers of Financial Wellbeing online community
  • Formal (hard copy) recognition of their contributions to the broader movement from BNY Mellon and Ashoka suitable for framing.
  • Representation of their work and perspectives in the data collected and analyzed for Challenge Trends Report

10 Pioneers (Finalists) are given all that Drivers receive, plus:

  • Invitation to participate in a syndicated Ashoka Huddle for challenge Pioneers during the final evaluation period.
  • Personalized feedback from official challenge judges
  • Opportunity for a structured interview with one challenge judge during final review period
  • Featured representation of all Pioneers in an online article
  • Connection with BNY Mellon employees for expert guidance and support
  • Consideration for Ashoka Fellows selection pipeline
  • Invitation to participate on the Financial Wellbeing Final Event hosted in New York, in October 3rd 2018, including opportunities to network with top BNY Mellon employees and Ashoka staff (travel costs not included).
  • Access to the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) Entrepreneur Scholarship Program, on the 22nd of October, 2018. It also includes an invitation to participate at the SOCAP Conference from October 23-26, 2018 in San Francisco. This is an opportunity to network with other social innovators and funders. Travel costs included.

4 Champions (Winners) are given all that Drivers and Pioneers receive, plus: 

  • A $50,000 cash award for each Champion to support activities related to achieving the social impact goal of the program presented to the Ashoka BNY Mellon Unlocking ₵hange
  • Featured representation in competition-related social media coverage
  • Personalized “point people” at Ashoka and BNY Mellon

  • Entry Period - April 25 - June 13, 2018
  • Screening & Community Review - June 13- June 27, 2018
  • Drivers (Semi-Finalists) Announcement - July 2, 2018 
  • Refining Entries Period - July 2, 2018 - July 23, 2018 
  • Pioneers (Finalists) Announcement - August 27, 2018 
  • Champions (Winners) Announcement - October 3, 2018 

Initiatives must:

  • Be headquartered and creating impact in the United States
  • Have already piloted their models and have initial evidence of impact.
  • Address how they are reaching underserved populations.
  • Have incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or have a fiscal sponsor


  • Only one application per initiative will be accepted.
  • Employees of BNY Mellon and their immediate family members are not eligible to participate.
  • Entrants must be over 18 years of age.

Evaluation criteria

The entries that will be most likely to receive funding include those that fulfill the following criteria:

  • Innovation: Leading entries have an original, ground-breaking idea, which might involve inventing something new, or applying existing approaches in new ways or to a new context. We are particularly interested in models that use fresh approaches to unlock systemic change or to spark mindset shifts that lead to widespread change.
  • Impact: Leading entries are demonstrating how to make a difference in expanding financial wellbeing to underserved communities through qualitative or quantitative information.
  • Sustainability: Leading entries 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.


The Unlocking Change Challenge (“Challenge”) is sponsored by Ashoka Changemakers and BNY Mellon.

Submission of entries

Entries must be submitted by the entry deadline: 5:00 PM EST on June 13, 2018. You may continue to edit and modify your entry up until this deadline.  To access and/or enter the Challenge, go to and complete your entry prior to the entry deadline.  There is no entry fee required to participate.  Only entries received in accordance with these Official Rules will be accepted.


Evaluation of entries will take place in three stages: 

  1. Screening & Community Review

    There will be two parallel review processes happening from June 13-27, one done by you and your peers, providing feedback and publicly evaluating each other’s work, and another one done by Ashoka and selected Network Partners. Each group’s average evaluation score will be added and weighted 50/50 to influence the final score of the entry. The final score will be used to inform decisions in the screening panel organized by the challenge core team, composed by Ashoka and BNY Mellon staff, to define the group of semifinalists moving to the next phase of the challenge.

  2. Shortlisting

    This phase follows the Refining Period (set forth above), where semifinalists can edit their entries, answer additional questions and incorporate feedback received from the screening phase. During the shortlisting phase, from July 12- August 3, a group of BNY Mellon employees and Ashoka staff will review the updated semifinalist entries and evaluate them. The scores and comments from these reviews will then inform decisions in the shortlisting panel, where both BNY Mellon employees and Ashoka staff will define the group of finalists moving to the next phase of the challenge.

  3. Judging

    A group of selected judges, defined by Ashoka and BNY Mellon, from different backgrounds and who have expertise in the Financial Wellbeing sector, will review and evaluate the finalists’ projects. The scores from their evaluations will guide them during the Judges panel discussion to define the winning initiatives.


The approximate retail value (ARV) of all awards is $230,000. The detailed description of awards can be found under the section “Awards and Benefits”.

Sponsors reserve the right to substitute an award with one of comparable or greater value.  EACH WINNER IS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECEIPT OR USE OF ANY AWARD.

Winning an award is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein. Each winner is solely responsible for any and all expenses relative to his/her participation in the Challenge not specified herein including, without limitation, acceptance of any award.

Award funding restrictions

Award funding will be disbursed by a fiscal agent and its use is restricted to activities related to achieving the social impact goal of the program presented to the Ashoka BNY Mellon Unlocking Change Challenge. Award winners must use the funds for work to be implemented in the future and a report on the usage of the awards will be required.

Due Diligence

Finalists may be asked to submit additional information about their organization and its operations to be analyzed in our due diligence process to verify eligibility to participate in the Challenge and receive an award. Sponsors reserve the right to disqualify any potential winner if they determine, in their sole discretion, that any information submitted by him/her was changed or falsified in order to meet eligibility requirements. Sponsors reserve the right to conduct a background check concerning any winner including, without limitation, checking publicly available information contained in civil and criminal court records, police reports and social media. To the extent necessary under law, each winner shall authorize such background check and acknowledge that Sponsors have a legitimate business need for such background check. Sponsors may also take all steps necessary to corroborate any information provided by each winner in his/her interview including conducting its own internal vetting process.  In that regard, each winner will be obligated to provide necessary contacts and information (including, without limitation, full legal name, home address, telephone number and date of birth) so that Sponsors may conduct such background check and internal vetting. Sponsors reserve the right (in their sole discretion) to disqualify a winner based on the background check or internal vetting and to select an alternate. 

Entry Errors

Sponsors are not responsible for (i) lost, late, incomplete, damaged, stolen, invalid, unintelligible or misdirected entries, which will be disqualified; (ii) any unavailability of or interruptions to any service or equipment used in connection with the Challenge including, without limitation, (1) interruptions to any network, server, Internet, website, telephone, satellite, computer or other connections (2) failures of any telephone, satellite, hardware, software or other equipment, (3) garbled, misdirected or jumbled transmissions, or traffic congestion, (4) other errors of any kind, whether human, technical, mechanical or electronic, or (5) the incorrect or inaccurate capture of entry or other information or the failure to capture any such information. Once submitted, entries become the sole property of Sponsors. The decisions of the judges officiating the Challenge will be final and binding regarding the outcome of the Challenge.

Affidavit of Eligibility/Liability Release/Publicity Release

As a condition of receiving an award, a potential winner may be required to complete, sign and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability Release, and, except where prohibited, a Publicity Release. Except where prohibited, participation in this Challenge constitutes winner's consent to Sponsors’ and their respective agents' use of winner's name, likeness, voice, opinions and biographical information for publicity, advertising, trade or promotional purposes in any media or manner, now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, without further payment, consideration, notice or approval.

Conditions of Participation

Participation constitutes entrant's full and unconditional agreement to these official rules and to Sponsors' decisions. The decisions of the Sponsors regarding all matters of this Challenge are final and binding. Sponsors reserve the right in their sole discretion, to modify, cancel, terminate, and/or suspend the Challenge and to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, violates these Official Rules, or acts in a disruptive manner. Without limiting the foregoing, Sponsors may modify, cancel, terminate, and/or suspend the Challenge if, in their sole opinion, an incident of any kind occurs to corrupt or impair the administration, security, integrity, fairness or play (as intended) of the Challenge including, without limitation: (a) viruses, bugs, unauthorized human intervention, fraud or technical failure; or (b) earthquake, flood, fire, storm or other natural disaster, act of God; or (c) labor controversy or threat thereof, civil disturbance or commotion, disruption of the public markets, war or armed conflict (whether or not officially declared).

Release and Indemnity

By participating in this Challenge or receiving an award, entrants (and in particular, winners) agree to release and to indemnify and hold harmless Sponsors, their parent, affiliated and subsidiary companies, and each of their respective officers, directors, employees and agents (collectively, the "Released Parties") for any liability, injury, death, loss or damages to entrant or any person or entity including, without limitation, damage to personal or real property, caused in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by participation in this Challenge (or related activities) or the acceptance, possession or use/misuse of an award. The Released Parties do not make any representation, warranty or guarantee, express or implied, relating to the Challenge or awards, and are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing errors or by any of the equipment, hardware, software or programming associated or used with the Challenge; (2) technical errors, defects, delays or failures of any kind including, without limitation, malfunctions, interruptions or disconnections in communications lines, Internet or website access, hardware or software; (3) digital or electronic disruptions, e.g., viruses; (4) unauthorized human intervention, e.g., hacking; (5) technical or human error which may occur in connection with any aspect of the Challenge; and (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant's participation in the Challenge, access to, copying or downloading materials from,, or any other website, or receipt or use of any award.

Additional Terms

The Challenge is further subject to Ashoka Changemakers’ Terms of Use, accessible on its website at .  In the event of a conflict between these Official Rules and the Ashoka Changemakers Terms of Use, these Official Rules will govern.  Personally identifiable information submitted by entrants as part of this Challenge will be used to administer the Challenge, select award winners and fulfill awards, and will be treated in accordance with Ashoka Changemakers’ privacy policy, accessible on its website at

Heidi DuBois, Global Head of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility at BNY Mellon

Heidi  is the Global Head of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). She is responsible for sustaining and expanding BNY Mellon’s leading reputation in CSR by advancing a deep understanding of the quickly evolving CSR field (encompassing social finance) and building and strengthening firm performance and reputation. 

Konstanze Frischen, Leadership Group Member at Ashoka

Konstanze leads Ashoka in North America and is a member of the Global Leadership Group. She founded Ashoka in her native Germany in 2003, convinced that social entrepreneurship was needed in Western Europe. She also co-founded the Globalizer, an initiative re-defining what we mean by scale. 

Wendy De La Rosa, Co-Founder at Common Cents Lab

Wendy is the co-founder and head of research for Common Cents lab, a research center focused on helping low and middle income households make better financial decisions using social science. In the past, she was Irrational Lab’s Lead Behavioral Strategist, where she focused on helping start Google's behavioral economics unit. 

Chris Whatley, Executive Director at United Nations Association - USA

Chris is the Executive Director for the United Nations Association in America. He leads UNA-USA's nationwide membership, educational, and human rights programs, at the heart of the movement of Americans who support the important work of the United Nations.  

Hamse Warfa, Co-founder at BanQu

Hamse is the co-founder and Executive Vice President of BanQu, an MIT Innovation award winner, blockchain powered software company working to eradicate extreme poverty by connecting the unbanked to the global economy through a secure, portable digital economic identity platform that allows economically marginalized people to access markets and financing opportunities. 

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

We follow a process with phases. Currently we are in the Champions Announced phase. We have selected and announced the best ideas for this challenge.
114 ideas
113 final ideas
37 final ideas
37 final ideas
10 final ideas


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