Competition guidelines for the 2023 Building better financial futures challenge
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) was established in 2001 to protect the rights and interests of consumers of financial products and services.
FCAC’s mandate is to supervise federally regulated financial entities and strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians.
The National Financial Literacy Strategy
In 2021, FCAC renewed the National Financial Literacy Strategy: Make Change that Counts with the objective of helping Canadians build financial resilience in an increasingly digital world.
The National Strategy is a 5-year plan to create a more accessible, inclusive, and effective financial ecosystem that supports diverse Canadians in meaningful ways by providing guidance on how financial literacy stakeholders can reduce barriers, catalyze actions, and work together to help Canadians build financial resilience.
Text version: Logic model
- Communicate in ways people understand
- Build and provide for diverse needs
- Support increased digital access and digital literacy
- Enhance access to trustworthy and affordable financial help
- Use behavioural design to simplify financial decisions
- Strengthen consumer protection measures
Enable consumers to achieve financial resilience
- Skills: Navigate the financial marketplace
- Capacity: Build just-in-time financial knowledge and confidence
- Behaviours: Manage expenses, debt, and savings
Changes to the financial literacy ecosystem are supported by evidence-based research and collaboration.
- Identify and understand gaps, needs, contexts, and behavioural outcomes
- User-test and evaluate effectiveness of interventions across different audiences
- Iteratively improve consumer experience and outcomes
- Drive greater use of evidence-based approaches and common agreement on concepts, methods, and standards for research
- Deliver or scale programming and amplify impact
- Share insights, resources, and best practices
For the Student Competition, participants are asked to select one of the three priorities under the theme of Reducing Barriers to be the focus of their paper (listed below):
- Priority 1: Communicate in ways people understand
- Priority 2: Build and provide for diverse needs
- Priority 3: Support increased digital access and digital literacy
Students will then conduct research and write a report to:
- Examine and synthesize existing research related to the selected priority
- Identify an actionable solution that addresses the selected priority and achieves one of the priority’s target outcomes (see Table 1)
- Provide a description of how they would build evidence-based support for the proposed solution (e.g., by outlining how they would use an experimental design, a pilot intervention, or other validated research methods to test the solution in the future), as well as how they would measure the efficacy of their proposed solution at achieving the intended target outcome
Undergraduate and Graduate students are invited to enter this Competition, and one successful submission will be selected from each of the undergraduate and graduate categories.
The ideal paper will include the following elements:
- Focus on one of the priorities included under the theme of Reducing Barriers in the National Financial Literacy Strategy (i.e., communicate in ways people understand, build and provide for diverse needs, support increased digital access and digital literacy)
- Propose an evidence-based, actionable solution that addresses at least one of the target outcomes of the selected priority area
- Provides a description of how the effectiveness of this solution would be tested using quantitative or qualitative research methods (e.g., using experimentation, surveys, pilot interventions, etc.) and indicate how the target outcome would be measured*
*Note: If an existing solution from another country, or an existing smaller-scale solution from somewhere in Canada is identified, students can propose how to adapt it and/or scale it up for broader use by Canadians.
Table 1: The ecosystem priorities under the theme of Reducing Barriers and their associated target outcomes
Ecosystem Priority 1: Communicate in Ways People Understand
The aim of this priority is to encourage stakeholders to communicate in ways everyone can understand. It has the following 3 targets:
Target Outcome 1:
More Canadians understand the key facts (including costs, risks, benefits, and limitations) about the financial products and services that are available to them.
Target Outcome 2:
More Canadians understand which financial products and services are appropriate for their own situation and goals.
Target Outcome 3:
Fewer Canadians experience negative financial outcomes related to not understanding key facts (including costs, risks, benefits, and limitations) or an inability to determine which financial products and services are good for their own situation (including their needs, risk tolerance, and budget constraints).
Ecosystem Priority 2: Build and Provide for Diverse Needs
The aim of this priority is to encourage stakeholders to use tailored approaches to better serve the financial needs of diverse audiences. It has the following 3 targets:
Target Outcome 1:
More Canadians have access to, and use, financial products and services that are tailored to their needs, vulnerabilities, and resource constraints.
Target Outcome 2:
More Canadians, particularly those with diverse needs or one or more forms of vulnerability, are involved and consulted in the development and delivery of financial products and services, which in turn leads to higher levels of inclusion.
Target Outcome 3:
Fewer Canadians experience a low quality of service (including disrespect or not being offered a product or service appropriate for their needs) when accessing financial products or services.
Ecosystem Priority 3: Support Increased Digital Access and Digital Literacy
The aim of this priority is to ensure Canadians are equipped with the digital resources, tools, and skills they need to participate fully in today’s increasingly digital financial marketplace. It has the following 3 targets:
Target Outcome 1:
More Canadians are equipped with the digital literacy and skills required to manage their finances online.
Target Outcome 2:
More Canadians are aware of how to protect their financial information online and proactively take steps to keep their data safe.
Target Outcome 3:
Fewer Canadians, especially those with one or more vulnerabilities, experience barriers to managing their finances as a result of lack of access to digital tools and technology.
Choosing a topic
Students can choose to write about any of the three ecosystem priorities under the theme of reducing barriers. However, to help illustrate the challenge, here are some examples of research questions they could choose to answer:
Women, people of colour, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers to Canada, older Canadians, or people living on low incomes, have unique needs which are likely not addressed by “mainstream” financial literacy information. This can result in feelings of alienation and lead to a lack of financial inclusion. Therefore, it is important to build and provide financial products and services that meet the diverse needs of Canadians (ecosystem priority). What is a barrier that might be preventing some Canadians with diverse needs from accessing, understanding, or using a financial product or service? What solution would you propose to overcome this barrier? How could you test the effectiveness of this solution and measure how it might result in more Canadians having access to, and use, of financial products and services that are tailored to their needs (target outcome)?
For some Canadians, lack of access to digital resources, tools, and skills, can be a significant barrier to participating fully in today’s increasingly digital financial marketplace (ecosystem priority). To be effective, financial inclusion initiatives need to find ways to reduce the digital divide, ensure there continue to be non-digital alternatives, expand accessibility, and strengthen the digital literacy skills of Canadians. What can be done to ensure that fewer Canadians, especially those with one or more vulnerabilities, experience barriers to managing their finances as a result of lack of access to digital tools and technologies (target outcome)? Can you think of a way to pilot this solution in order to build evidence of its effectiveness and how would you measure the target outcome?
When identifying a topic for the research paper, choosing one ecosystem priority and one target outcome will allow students to understand the issue in depth. Students are encouraged to come up with a specific solution and a targeted research approach for building evidence of its effectiveness and practicality, rather than a general one. For example, “encourage Canadians to take the time to research the financial products and services available to them” is a general recommendation. A concrete suggestion for an advertising campaign, educational brochure, pilot intervention, or a mock-up of a new tool for helping Canadians improve their understanding of financial products and services are specific examples of solutions. The ideal entries will be specific rather than general in nature.
For all submissions, secondary research (e.g., library or online research, reading academic articles from journals, newspapers) is required.
- For undergraduate projects, primary research (e.g., interviews with target group members, short surveys, data analysis) is recommended if feasible, but not required.
- For graduate projects primary research is strongly recommended. Research must follow Tri-council research ethics guidelines as set out by the student’s institutional ethics review board.
Students are welcome to use FCAC data sets as primary research in their paper. The anonymized data from the COVID-19 Financial Well-Being Survey, FCAC’s 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey, and 2018 Financial Well-being Survey are available upon request (please contact: email@example.com).
Students are also encouraged to consult other FCAC reports and studies, as well as data and/or examples from the international community to gain a fuller understanding of the measures and issues related to financial literacy and financial well-being.
(1) Applicants must:
- Be registered in a Canadian post-secondary institution undergraduate or graduate program at the time of the submission deadline (April 30, 2023)
- Submit an 8-10 page research paper, in English or French, as described in detail in the competition guidelines
- Submit their own work which has not been published elsewhere
(2) A student may participate in this Competition as an individual or as part of a two-person (maximum) team, but not both. However:
- Any individual may only submit one entry in the Competition. For instance, if a participant chooses to enter individually, then the participant cannot be on a team. Likewise, a participant cannot be on multiple teams
- In the case of team entries, the presence of one graduate student in the team will mean that the submission will be considered in the graduate category. The category definitions are based on the participant’s student status in the 2022-2023 academic year. For example, if a participant is an undergraduate student from fall 2022 until spring 2023, the participant qualifies in the undergraduate category
(3) Participants who wish to be selected as a Guest Speaker & Author, must:
- Allow FCAC to publish the submitted paper on Canada.ca
- Present their work (in an in-person or virtual presentation) to FCAC and members of the financial literacy stakeholder community
(4) Conformity to Ethical Standards: Academic Institution & the Government of Canada
- All papers must satisfy the ethical standards of the submitting author(s)’ academic institution and it is incumbent upon the author(s) to ensure that they have met these requirements, particularly if any human research has been conducted. Human research typically includes any data collected directly from people, including, for instance, in surveys or during interviews
- The submitted papers must conform to Government of Canada publishing requirements
Research paper: Cover page plus 8-10 typed, double spaced pages, 11-pt font (Times New Roman), with 1-inch margins. You may include up to an additional 3 pages of exhibits and appendices. A References page should be located at the end of the research paper but before the additional exhibits and appendices. Cover page and References do not count towards the page limit.
Cover page must contain: Name(s) of individuals or team members, respective post-secondary institutions, departments/focus of study, title of research paper, and copyright statement.
The research paper must include the following in this order:
- A rationale for the choice of ecosystem priority including a brief summary of the research findings (i.e., literature review)
- A detailed description of a proposed evidence-based, actionable solution that addresses the selected ecosystem priority
- An explanation of how the proposed solution meets at least one of the target outcomes of the selected ecosystem priority
- A plan to test the effectiveness of the solution including how the target outcome would be measured
Judging will be conducted by a panel of referees drawn from FCAC staff as well as members of its Research Committee, and points will be allocated in the following manner (see attached grading rubric):
- Background research (30%)
- Justification of choice of ecosystem priority and target outcome. This section should include a literature review and discussion of the evidence used to support the choice.
- Research findings and proposed solution / testing (60%)
- Solution(s) that flow from the research findings (30%) and a description of how the solution is actionable/practical and addresses the selected priority and will achieve at least one of the desired target outcomes.
- A discussion of how to test the effectiveness of the proposed solution. This section includes a discussion of the steps that need to be taken to implement and test the solution(s) as well as a description of how the target outcome will be measured. (30%)
- Other factors will be considered including one or more of the following (10%)
- Primary research (i.e., research or analyses conducted by the student(s)) such as an experimental study or original analyses on an archival data set
- Practical significance and impact
- Expected contribution to knowledge
Guest speaker and author
Successful participants from each category (undergraduate and graduate) will have their work published on Canada.ca, and will be given the opportunity to meet with FCAC staff to learn about the governmental publication process. They will also be given the opportunity to serve as guest speakers and present their work to members of the financial literacy community, and network with governmental officials and other financial literacy stakeholders, as appropriate.
Honourable mention will be noted in each category. Runners-up who are given the distinction of honorable mention may also be given the opportunity to have their reports published on Canada.ca.
The competition will open for submissions on September 1, 2022. The deadline to submit papers is April 30, 2023.
Submitting your paper
The submissions should be sent by completing the Research Paper Submission Form.
For more information, please contact FCAC:
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada / Government of Canada
427 Laurier Avenue West, 5th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1R 1B9
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