City of Dallas Partners with XPRIZE to Transform the Lives of 3.8 Million Local Adult Learners Through Technology

Dallas — Tuesday, Mayor Mike Rawlings, the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) and XPRIZE, the global leader in designing and operating world-changing incentive competitions, formally announced a first-of-its kind partnership that will help support the next field-testing phase of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, 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.

The City of Dallas will join a consortium of city mayors, community-based organizations and public education institutions including the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Adult Education (OAE) in a 15-month long field testing phase across Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The field test in these three cities aims to reach a total of 12,000 adult-learner participants who read English at a third-grade reading level or below, and will activate more than 750 volunteers to onboard participants and coordinate the download of learning apps.

“There are 3.8 million adults in Texas who need adult education services, and current programs only reach 100,000 individuals,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE is a game changer in filling education gaps by providing tools that all learners need to be successful, to find jobs and ultimately to contribute more fully to their communities. The City of Dallas is proud to work with XPRIZE on this effort, and we look forward to seeing how this innovative partnership will expand opportunities across our diverse population for years to come.”

“Adult literacy is critical to the success of families, communities and the workforce. Providing higher education that improves lives and communities is the mission of the Dallas County Community College District, so we are pleased to support the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Literacy XPRIZE efforts,” said Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor. “The competition and the resulting new app will boost literacy and support workforce and economic development which, in turn, will support our communities. Hosting an event to celebrate the field-testing stage helps us bring more attention in Dallas to adult literacy needs.”

This official kick-off comes after XPRIZE announced on July 18 that eight semifinalist teams, out of the 109 participating teams, will advance in the competition, including Dallas-based team PeopleForWords, a collaboration among Southern Methodist University (SMU) Guildhall, SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) to build an immersive, fun mobile application that will advance literacy skills for adult learners.

“With the announcement of these semifinalist teams, we are one step closer to transforming the lives of 36 million adults with low literacy skills in the U.S. by putting today’s cutting-edge learning tools directly in the hands of those who need them most,” said Shlomy Kattan, the senior director of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE. “This first-of-its-kind partnership signals a deep commitment by these cities to invest in the lives of their residents by addressing adult low-literacy and the burdens it places on job growth, medical costs and a child’s future educational success.”

“Through the Adult Literacy XPRIZE, the Barbara Bush Foundation is making a sound investment in the future of education in our country,” said Liza McFadden, President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. “Be among the first to try these apps. I’m certain you will think of someone you know – perhaps an employee, a community leader, or better yet, a friend who is a mom or dad – who would benefit from these apps. Some you sing along with, and others entrance you as a game, but all the apps empower the user to learn anywhere and anytime.”

According to the Literacy Coalition of Greater Dallas, 3.8 million Texans need the services of an adult education program, yet only 100,000 individuals are served. On the national level, the American Journal of Public Health and the National Council for Adult Learning estimate that low literacy skills cost the United States $225 billion in lost productivity and tax revenue each year and add an estimated $230 billion to the country’s annual healthcare costs.

During the development phase of the competition leading up to today’s announcement, 109 teams from 15 countries across the globe developed mobile solutions to overcome key barriers to literacy by improving access, while increasing retention and scaling to meet demand; 41 of these teams submitted fully functional mobile learning apps designed for adult learners. A panel of independent expert judges evaluated these submissions based on their appeal and evidence of effectiveness.

Starting mid-July, the Adult Literacy XPRIZE distributed the learning solutions to participating adult learners who will test the semifinalist teams’ software; each participant will receive access to one randomly-assigned app. Following 12 months of consistent use, a post-test will be administered to determine the highest gains in literacy achieved by the participants. Participants’ app usage, responses to monthly surveys and self-assessments will also factor in the judges’ final evaluation.

As announced on July 18, the eight teams advancing are:

  • PeopleForWords (Dallas, TX) – Led by Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, in collaboration with SMU’s Guildhall and Literacy Instruction for Texas, the PeopleForWords team has developed a mobile game based on an archeological adventure storyline to help adult learners improve their English reading skills.
  • Alphabet Literacy (San Francisco, CA) – Led by Xian Ke and Trudy Obi, the team has built an app that allows users to explore multimedia content for improving their literacy skills. Users can interact with articles, songs, videos and more within the app.
  • AmritaCREATE, Amrita University (Amritapuri, Kerala, India) – Inspired by Amrita University’s Chancellor AMMA and led by Dr. Prema Nedungadi, this team of educators and developers have created a personalized learning app along with engaging, culturally appropriate e-content linked to life skills.
  • AutoCognita (Hong Kong, China) – Led by Frank Ho, the team applies the constructivist learning approach to engage learners through action. Low-literacy adults effectively acquire basic literacy, numeracy and life skills through a comprehensive curriculum and sound pedagogy.
  • Cell-Ed (Oakland, CA) – Led by Dr. Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, this team brings more than 20 years of EdTech experience with low income, low-literate adults in the US and worldwide by offering on-demand essential skills, micro-lessons and personalized coaching on any mobile device, without internet.
  • Learning Games Studios (Alexandria, VA) – Led by Ira Sockowitz, Learning Games Studios has developed an evidence-based mobile learning game that combines a virtual world, scaffolded missions and single- and multi-player gameplay to rapidly increase adult learners’ English language and literacy skills.
  • Learning Upgrade (San Diego, CA) – Led by Vinod Lobo, the team helps students learn English and math the fun way through songs, video, games and rewards.
  • Lyriko (Cambridge, MA) – The Lyriko team believes people learn best when they are having fun and hopes to inspire a lifelong love of learning through play. Their app, also called Lyriko, is a music game designed to build language skills while exploring song lyrics.

Upon completion of field testing, the top mobile applications will be available in the United States for complimentary use for 18 months. The selection of up to five finalists will be announced in June 2018, and winners will be announced early 2019. The $3M Grand Prize will be awarded to the team with the best performance across all adult learners, over the 12-month field test. Two $1M Achievement Prizes will also be awarded to the two teams with the best performance in each of the two key demographic groups: native English speakers and English language learners. An additional $500K will be awarded to up to five finalist teams.

Following the awarding of the Grand Prize and Bonus Prizes, cities across the U.S. will compete to encourage their adult learners to download and use the winning applications, using tailored education, marketing and outreach campaigns. A $500K purse will be split among all finalist teams that meet the minimum performance benchmark to advance to the Cities Competition. A $1M prize 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.

For more information, visit


XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. XPRIZE utilizes a unique combination of gamification, crowd-sourcing, incentive prize theory, and exponential technologies as a formula to make 10x (vs. 10%) impact in the grand challenge domains facing our world.  XPRIZE’s philosophy is that—under the right circumstances— igniting rapid experimentation from a variety of diverse lenses is the most efficient and effective method to driving exponential impact and solutions to grand challenges.  Active competitions include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, the $1.75M Water Abundance XPRIZE and the $1M Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE. For more information, visit

About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy. The Foundation was established by Mrs. Barbara Bush in 1989, inspired by her vision of fostering the opportunity for every man, woman and child to secure a better life through literacy. Today, the Foundation is a public charity that remains committed to Mrs. Bush’s vision, working to expand literacy access for the bookends of our education system: early literacy for young children and opportunities for low-literate parents to improve their skills. To learn more, visit or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (@BarbaraBushFdn).

About the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $110 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping nearly six million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education. For more information about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and its grant programs, visit


The Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) serves more than 83,000 credit and 25,000 continuing education students during the regular academic year. Founded in 1965, DCCCD celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015-2016. The district comprises seven individually-accredited colleges: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland – plus its virtual campus, Dallas Colleges Online. The district’s mission is to transform lives and communities through higher education. DCCCD also is involved in workforce training and economic development to support businesses and students so that they can earn a living wage, support their families and communities, and build careers.

Media Contacts:

Eric Desatnik / Jackie Wei, XPRIZE

310.741.4892 / 310.741.4918 /

Ann Hatch, DCCCD

940.595.5552 (cell)

Press Inquiries

If you’re a member of the media or would like more information, you can reach Lauren Sproull, Vice President of Communications, at 850.562.5300 or