Social enterprises that provide sustainable jobs in US coal-mining communities. Hands-on training that teaches people in South Africa to make useful products out of waste. A digital platform that’s helping domestic workers in Mexico gain access to the financial system.

These are some of the pioneering initiatives selected as winners of the inaugural HSBC Future Skills Innovation Challenge – a competition to recognise social enterprises that are helping people develop the skills needed to get a job, manage their money and build a successful future.

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HSBC has launched the competition in partnership with Ashoka, a global network for social entrepreneurs. The 12 chosen initiatives will receive prizes of up to USD25,000 each to help grow their projects, as well as support and mentoring from leaders at the bank and Ashoka.

Daniel Klier, Global Head of Sustainable Finance, HSBC, said: “Developing the right skills will be even more important as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and encourages sustainable economic growth.

“It has been great to be involved as a judge with the HSBC Future Skills Innovation Challenge, and see first-hand how our 12 winning social entrepreneurs are helping people develop key skills and shape the economy of tomorrow.”

The winners include:

Coalfield Development

Many coal-mining communities in the US have a long history of relative poverty and comparatively limited job opportunities. Coalfield Development launches social enterprises in these communities, helping create green jobs.

The new enterprises focus on sectors that are more sustainable than fossil fuels, such as solar installation, bio-based manufacturing, reuse and recycling, and technology.

Every week employees carry out 33 hours of paid work, six hours of higher education and three hours of personal development.

Brandon Dennison, founder of Coalfield Development, says: “We empower people by not only employing them, but supporting them on a career pathway to pay raises, promotions, and fulfilment.”


Use-It is an organisation that teaches young people in South Africa how to manufacture innovative products out of waste.

It has developed a system that combines crushed glass and waste plastic to create a cement replacement to be used in paving stones. It has also devised a way to convert plastic waste into fuels for cooking and heating.

The programme trains young people in techniques such as these, helping participants develop the skills and inspiration they need to start their own businesses.

Founder Chris Whyte says: “The programme offers entrepreneurial skills to capitalise on opportunities to start and grow sustainable businesses that form part of the mainstream economy in South Africa.”

Comunidad 4Uno

In Mexico many domestic workers are paid in cash and have no access to formal savings products or loans. Comunidad 4Uno helps bridge this gap with a digital platform that enables financial transactions between employers and employees, helping the latter set up a bank account, build credit history and achieve their financial goals.

Founder Miguel Duhalt says: “Since starting in 2017, we have helped more than 4,500 workers in 30 cities.”

The other winners of HSBC’s innovation challenge include:

  • Beam, an online crowdfunding platform that supports the provision of training courses and qualifications for homeless people in the UK
  • Social Hackers Academy, which equips refugees and other vulnerable groups in Greece with the digital and interpersonal skills needed to enter the tech job market
  • Virtualahan, which works to give people with disabilities in the Philippines better access to skilled work in the digital economy

You can find out more and see a full list of winners on the Ashoka website (opens in new window)

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