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Guest blog post by Shlomy Kattan, the Prize Lead of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation

One of the things I find most invigorating about working with educators and Edtech entrepreneurs is their passion and commitment to the belief that some of the world’s greatest challenges can be solved by fundamentally changing the way education is conceived, created, delivered, and consumed. That’s what makes me so excited about the teams competing for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. These educators, designers, programmers, and entrepreneurs will change the world by tackling one of the most difficult and stubborn educational problems we face as a society.

For the past 20 years, the percentage of the U.S. adult population that lacks basic literacy skills has not changed. Today, over 36 million adults in the United States read at or below a basic level. That’s about one out of every seven adults. These adult learners struggle to do many of the things a lot of us take for granted, like read prescription drug information, understand an employment agreement, vote in an election, or even read a bedtime story to their kids or help them with their homework.

The lack of improvement in the adult literacy rate is not for lack of trying. Tens of thousands of brilliant and dedicated teachers, tutors, researchers, and program administrators devote their time to helping improve the literacy skills of adult learners. Schools, libraries, and community centers provide space; publishers provide materials; Federal, State, and non-profits provide funding – over $1.2B per year. Hundreds of thousands of learners receive support.

Unfortunately, these solutions, as good and as effective as they are, do not scale, and we’re only able to address the needs of less than 5% of the adult low-literacy population. Essentially, adult basic education offers brick-and-mortar solutions for a digital world.

The teams competing for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE are going to change that. These innovators will create mobile solutions to significantly improve the literacy skills of adult learners. Their creativity, intelligence, and effort are going to impact the lives of tens of millions of people in the U.S. and potentially hundreds of millions around the world. The solutions they develop are going to help people you and I come into contact with every day to vastly improve their lives.

The impact these teams will have spreads far beyond the Adult Literacy XPRIZE. Our goal is to see as many of the products created get to market. Teams’ success beyond this competition is the reason XPRIZE exists.

Of course, for teams to succeed both in and beyond the Adult Literacy XPRIZE, they need the help of a broader edtech and adult education community. To this end, XPRIZE will launch a number of programs in 2016 to support teams’ product and business development. These include perks and discounts so teams can focus on developing solutions and have to worry less on paying for basic tools and services. They also include a webinar series with some of the leading thinkers and makers in EdTech to cover topics such as product development, business strategy, fundraising, and marketing. Finally, we’re building a matching platform that will help teams connect both with the talent and mentorship they need.

In this respect, we’re fortunate to be part of a vibrant and growing ecosystem that includes organizations like LearnLaunch. We therefore invite the LearnLaunch community to become involved with the Adult Literacy XPRIZE. Team Registration closes December 10, so there is still time to sign up to compete. If you don’t want to form your own team, but have experience to contribute to one, create a user profile here and we’ll let you know how you can be matched with existing teams looking for members like you. If you have expertise in education, technology, marketing, or business strategy, consider mentoring a team. If you’re an investor, sign up here to be kept up-to-date on exciting developments in the adult education space. Or, just stay abreast of what we’re doing at XPRIZE by signing up for our newsletter.

More than 14% of adults in the U.S. lack basic literacy skills. Over the next three years, hundreds of devoted and creative educators, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs are going to work to solve this grand challenge. That’s invigorating.

Shlomy Kattan is the Prize Lead of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Learn more at http://adultliteracy.xprize.org.