The $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation is a competition challenging teams of developers (software, game and app), educators, engineers, and innovators to create mobile literacy learning applications for adult learners. The Finalist teams’ solutions must demonstrate that they can substantially improve the literacy proficiency of adults reading at or below a third-grade level within a 12-month period.
Following solution submissions in March 2017, a panel of independent judges will select 15 Semifinalists. Each Semifinalist team’s mobile software solution will then be tested with approximately 800 field participants for one year (Field Test).
Field participants will be recruited across two demographics:
- Native English language speakers 18-64 years old
- Non-native English language speakers 18-64 years old
At the mid-point of the Field Test, five Finalists will be selected based on the performance of their solutions up to that point. Winners will be selected from this pool of five Finalists based on the gains in literacy skills among Field participants as measured by a pre- and post-test taken one year apart.
The Finalist solutions able to demonstrate gains in literacy skills among their Field participants will then be deployed in a Cities Competition in which Cities will compete to encourage the greatest percentage of their low-literate residents to download and use the solutions over a six-month period. The winning city will demonstrate the greatest percentage of application downloads and use among its low-literate residents.
The $7 million Prize Purse will be awarded as follows:
Grand Prize: $3 million will be awarded to the team that can demonstrate the greatest literacy gains of its Field Test participants over 12 months as measured by the pre-test and post-test.
Finalist Prize: Teams selected as Finalists (up to five teams) will be awarded $100,000 each.
Achievement Prizes: $2 million ($1 million each) will be given to the teams that can demonstrate the greatest literacy gains by their Field Test participants over 12 months in one of each of the two demographic groups as measured by the pre-test and post-test (native English speakers and non-native English speakers).
Advanced Market Commitment (“Cities Deployment Participation”): $500,000 incentive to be split equally among all Finalist teams that advance to the Cities Competition.
Cities Competition (“Cities Deployment Prize”): $1 million will be awarded to the city that encourages the greatest percentage of its adult learners to download and use any of the Finalist solutions over a six-month period.
Before launching a prize, XPRIZE conducts extensive research with industry leaders and experts to design a competition that will significantly advance technology for exponential impact. Click here for XPRIZE’s assessment of the landscape for adult literacy.
NEED FOR THE COMPETITION
More than 36 million U.S. adults lack basic English literacy.
Low-literate adults have difficulty reading a child a bedtime story, reading over the counter medicine labels, completing a job application, opening a bank account, navigating healthcare forms, tax forms and more.
Economic studies show that even a one percent rise in literacy skill scores can increase labor productivity by as much as 2.5 percent, boosting output by as much as $225 billion.
Improving adult literacy could save the country an estimated $230 billion in extra healthcare costs.
More importantly, the legacy of low-literacy continues through generations, limiting opportunities and trapping whole families in a cycle of poverty.
In fact, a mother’s literacy level is the single most accurate predictor of a child’s future educational success and poverty level.
THE MARKET FAILURE
Existing programs provided by nonprofits and public agencies are place-based and offer direct, in-person services in classrooms, small groups or one-on-one settings. These programs are often under-funded, small in size, not accessible to all and unable to scale to meet the needs of our country’s 36 million low-literate adults. Currently, these programs serve only about 2 million people per year.
We need a radical new approach to adult literacy learning. A solution that is relevant, scalable and accessible – anytime, anywhere.
The solutions we envision will address the complexities of the adult learner’s life and reality by tackling the largest obstacles to achieving basic literacy – access, retention, and scale. By creating mobile applications for existing devices that are relevant and effective, low-literate adults can learn on their own schedules, wherever they are.
Competing teams will build solutions that propel adult education into the 21st century and beyond, creating smart, mobile solutions that will take learners further and faster than they thought possible. This competition will put learning tools in the hands of those who need them most, so learning can happen anytime, anywhere.
The applications will address the complexities of the adult learner’s life and reality – tackling the largest obstacles to achieving basic literacy by improving access, encouraging persistence, developing relevant learning content, and scaling nationwide.
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