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$7 million X Prize Selects Semi-Finalists & Starts Programs

Mon, Aug 7th 2017 03:00 pm
LNY has written about the X Prize in the past. The fact of the matter is, the entire adult literacy community is eagerly awaiting the results.  The basic premise of this project is for entrants to design mobile applications for smart devices that result in the greatest increase in literacy skills among participating adult learners in just 12 months.
Apps developed by eight semi-finalists are currently being tested in Los Angeles, Dallas and Philadelphia, in partnership with city governments and community organizations like the William Penn Foundation. The apps will reach 12,000 adult learners over 15 months and collectively represent the largest program in America for this level of adult literacy.
According to an August 2 article in Triple Pundit—and something we all know because we see it every day--the capacity to increase adult literacy — is severely lacking. "Right now, [the United States] only has class capacity for 5 percent of the 36 million adults who lack basic literacy skills," (Shlomy Kattan, senior director of the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy X Prize).
The Adult Literacy X Prize aims to fill this gap. Adult learners face unique barriers to success, Kattan told the audience at a launch event in Philadelphia, where X Prize is partnering with the city's Office of Adult Education. "Fifty percent of adult learners who sign up for a program quit within 12 hours of their first class," he explained. "It's inconvenient. These learners have jobs and families."
Although programs try to work around people's schedules, it's not always enough, Kattan said. "Sure, you can take night classes. But it's hard at the end of a long work day, or it becomes a choice between putting your child to bed or going to a class."
By developing apps that learners can use any time — and field-testing them to see which model yields the best results — the Adult Literacy X Prize is poised to address both the lack of class capacity and the even more significant hurdle of fitting into adult learners' busy lives.
"People often don't know where to go, or the place they need to go is not convenient," said Denine Torr, senior director of community initiatives for the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. "This concept removes that barrier."
The public tends to characterize adult learners as "others," Kattan told us, which is part of the reason they have remained underserved for so long. But they're just like every other American who struggles to balance self-improvement with a busy work and family life. By addressing this challenge head-on, rather than using it as an excuse not to serve this community, social innovators can begin to change realities that have persisted for decades.
"We believe in the power of technology to overcome access barriers," said Tim Gage, SVP of government affairs for Comcast and a member of the Barbara Bush Foundation Board of Directors. "It's certainly not a lack of desire that keeps adult learners from pursuing education."
Learners are already using the semi-finalist apps in Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Following 12 months of consistent use, a post-test will determine the highest gains in literacy achieved by the participants. You can check out the eight semi-finalists and their concepts here.
Excerpted from Triple Pundit

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