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Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE
presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation

A $7 million global competition to

Transform the lives of low-literate adults.

The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation is a global competition challenging teams to develop mobile applications for existing smart devices that result in the greatest increase in literacy skills among participating adult learners in just 12 months. The solutions will overcome key barriers to literacy learning by improving access, while increasing retention, and scaling to meet demand. Our vision is to empower nearly 1 in 6 low-literate adults living in the U.S. with the skills they need to improve their lives and realize their dreams.

We need a radical new approach to address adult literacy learning.

Grand challenge

More than 36 million U.S. adults lack basic English literacy, limiting not only their personal educational and career opportunities but those of their children and future generations.

Economic studies show higher literacy numbers could lift the national income level as much as $240 billion and decrease annual healthcare costs by an estimated $230 billion. Most importantly, the ability to read empowers low-literate adults with the skills and information they need to improve their lives and realize their dreams.

Adult learners face a distinct set of challenges. Existing programs are place-based and provide direct, in person services making them difficult to access for those with jobs and families. As a result, these programs serve less than one percent of the population that needs them.


The $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation challenges teams from all over the world to create mobile learning applications able to move low-literate adults to basic literacy in just one year. The solutions will overcome key barriers by improving access, increasing retention, and scaling to meet demand – anytime, anywhere – empowering the nearly 1 in 10 low-literate adults living in the U.S. with the skills they need to improve their lives.

Each team will test its solution with 1,000 low-literate adults within two target demographics, native English speakers and non-native English speakers, ages 18-64.

Prize purse

The $7 million prize purse will be awarded as follows: Grand Prize: $4 million to the team with the best performance across two target demographics. Bonus Prizes: $1 million to be split evenly among the two teams with the best performance in each of the two target demographics. Advanced Market Commitment:

$1 million to be split among all finalist teams that advance to the Cities Competition. Cities Competition: $1 million to the city able to deploy the winning literacy applications to the greatest percentage of its low-literate residents.

City Partners Announced

Learn More About City Partners

Meet the Semifinalist Teams

We are taking our next step in our journey to revolutionize adult literacy learning. Eight semifinalist teams will begin field testing for their mobile applications in Philadelphia, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Alphabet Literacy


United States

Alphabet Literacy was founded by Trudy Obi and Xian Ke when they decided to collaborate on a team for the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition. Trudy and Xian met during their teen years at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Trudy has always loved to read. She studied English and French at Princeton University, and philosophy at Institut catholique de Paris, before graduating with a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Trudy has worked for nonprofits, book publishers, translation companies, and the Embassy of France. You can learn more about Alphabet Literacy at

Amrita Learning

Amrita Learning


AmritaCREATE, Amrita University has pioneered technology enhanced learning for K12 Schools & Higher Education in both formal and informal settings and in Health Awareness and Monitoring Systems. Large scale projects developed and deployed across India include Amrita Rural India Tablet enhanced Education (RITE) in remote villages, Intelligent Tutoring Systems for School Education, eGovernance Systems for Schools, Big Data Analytics in Education, Health Awareness and Monitoring Systems and Simulations and CASE Based environments for Medical Education.

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AmritaCREATE, Amrita University’s technology is deployed in 22 states across India, with impact via. 52 remote and rural village centers.  Over 11,000 teachers have been trained with 300,000+ students impacted in schools and universities.



Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Team AutoCognita got its start when founder Frank Ho, inspired by the challenge, signed up for the Adult Literacy and Global Learning XPRIZEs and looked around for other like-minded people also based in Hong Kong.  Over time, the team began to take shape as Pazu Lai joined to as a system developer, and Chun Chi joined later as a front-end developer. We had a solid design and tech team in place, but for several months we lacked someone with real teaching experience. Then one day, Dana Rozier from the U.S. contacted us to express her interest in joining our mission, after reading our team profile on the XPRIZE portal. Now we are one dedicated global team with unique and complimentary skills, all connected through serendipity and the magic of the XPRIZE network.

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Having started implementation for the GLEXP, we become more confident that a working solution based on our constructivist approach can be done.  With every module that we build today, we keep in mind how it can be used in an adult learning context. 



United States

Team Cell-Ed was born out of a staggering need. A need for nearly one billion adults – two out of three who are women – to read and write. From Miami to Mombasa, the team witnessed these adults scramble to access the classrooms, teachers and books necessary to learn. There were never enough, if any. But what the founders noticed these adults did have were basic cell phones. So they asked, “What if a cell phone can teach forgotten adults to read?” After a two-year, Los Angeles-based pilot, the results were outstanding. Learners wholeheartedly embraced, and excelled at, this cell phone-based approach. Today, Cell-Ed aims to reach millions of low literate adults in the United States with the basic literacy, language, and life skills they demand and need. A woman & minority owned edtech start up; Team Cell-Ed brings the power of personalized learning on the go.

Learning Games Studios

Learning Games Studios

United States

Learning Games Studios (LGS) comes out of a top shelf research network led by MIT’s Education Arcade and University of Wisconsin’s Games+Learning+Society Center.  LGS offers researched and award winning games that excite and engage learners, and deliver measureable learning outcomes, by bringing together compelling game-based experiences with strong instructional design and research-backed implementations of the learning sciences.

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LGS’ portfolio of games addresses the critical needs of adult learners, immigrants and employees, including English language learning and 21st Century skills, such as critical thinking, communications, and decision-making. These skills improve the integration of these adult learners into society and engender civic engagement, enhance their prospects for gainful employment, and help them advance in the workplace.

Learning Upgrade

Learning Upgrade

United States

Founded in 1998 by educators, musicians, artists and programmers in San Diego, Learning Upgrade designs innovative, engaging lessons to support struggling students in reading and math. Through the incorporation of songs, video, games and educational research, Learning Upgrade has helped over 1 million students make learning breakthroughs.

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In Adult Literacy, we have partnered with Los Angeles Public Library Adult Literacy to deploy our lessons with hundreds of learners at branch libraries, using web-based online courses. We have also worked with San Diego Public Library, Job Corps, and Community Colleges to provide literacy and math instruction for low-literate adults.

Our online courses have delivered proven growth with a variety of students including English Learners, special needs, and learners in poverty. These results have been documented in a number of studies over the past few years.

Our next challenge will be to bring our already proven literacy lessons to the mobile platform, allowing learners to make literacy breakthroughs from their smartphones.  This new medium presents challenges such as small screen space, app technologies, and integration with social media.  We look forward to meeting these challenges and delivering breakthrough growth to a wide audience of adult learners.



United States

Learning a new language is one of the most important challenges many of us face. Lots of countries have immigrants who are trying to learn the local language and fit in. Progress through traditional educational challenges can open up with improved language skills. Business is becoming increasingly global, and knowing another language can unlock new opportunities. And studying another language and culture is one of the best ways the break down prejudice and build appreciation in its place.

We love music. When we find a new favorite song, we listen to it often until we knew all the words and could sing along. Learning languages through songs, all the words are in context. Song lyrics are a memorable way to connect a word with the way it sounds, what it means, and the feelings it can evoke. Plus there’s natural repetition that makes remembering much easier.

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With those ideas in mind, we designed Lyriko. It has four modes, to help people with a range of learning preferences practice foundational skills. If you’re already studying in a course or with another program, think of Lyriko as an extra tutor that can help you meet your goals even faster!

The team is full of people from different national and language backgrounds. Most in fact, speak English as a second language, so we’re fully aware of the challenges of learning and living in another language. We take extra care to express what we mean and try to interpret what another team member said, creating a culture of consciousness about language and appreciation of its power.

Also, because of our diverse backgrounds, our design, art style, and music comes from many influences and strives to have a universal appeal.

People ForWords

People Forwords

United States

Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) serve a city that faces adult illiteracy rates that will reach 33% by 2030, impacting everything from poverty rates, to public safety and health. As populations grow, we see burgeoning areas struggling to build an infrastructure that can provide basic education to all residents.

With combined experience of 155 years in adult education, LIFT and SMU are joining forces to bend the trend of rising adult illiteracy rates. Our institutions educate a diverse population in a city of contrasts. The gap between the poor and the wealthy is glaring. Our natural partnership was formed from a shared belief that reading is a human right. As a result, we envision making a world-class, basic education accessible to millions.

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LIFT has a deep understanding of the populations most in need of basic literacy skills. Together with SMU’s interdisciplinary expertise in education, digital gaming and computer science, we have skills to create a game app that will improve adults’ basic literacy skills, ensure that those skills translate to real world success, and have measurable outcomes. The app also will be fun to use and motivate users to learn.



Launch: June 2015
36 months for main competition
6 months for Cities Competition

The $7 million prize purse will be awarded as follows:

  • Grand Prize: $3 million to the team with the best performance across two target demographics
  • Achievement Prizes: $1 million each for the two teams with the best performance in each of the two target demographics
  • Cities Deployment Participant Incentive: $1 million to be split among up to five teams that advance to the Cities Competition
  • Cities Competition: $1 million to the city able to deploy the winning literacy applications to the greatest percentage of its low-literate residents

Get in Touch

You may also contact us by phone at 850.562.5300 or by mail at:
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301