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Literacy Courseware Challenge - Frequently Asked Questions



Who are the sponsors of the Literacy Courseware Challenge?
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the sponsor of the Literacy Courseware Challenge.

Who can apply?
Innovative publishers, developers, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit proposals for engaging, personalized software solutions that help students master the Common Core State Standards for literacy at the 4th-8th grade levels.

Both taxable and tax‐exempt organizations are eligible to apply. Individuals and single-person LLCs are not eligible.

Will the Challenge fund only new solutions or will it also fund ongoing development of current solutions?
The Challenge will fund both new solutions that have not yet launched, as well as solutions that are currently available and would be significantly upgraded with an influx of grant funding.

Can a team submit more than one application?
Yes, a team can submit more than one application. Multiple applications should be submitted separately by creating two unique logins and submitting two separate proposals.

Can more than one institution partner together to submit a proposal?
Applicants can partner with other organizations in application submissions and development. Subcontracting of work is also acceptable. In all cases, one organization must be designated as the primary grantee to receive the grant, as well as be fully responsible for delivery of the final product.

Does the solution have to be free?
The solution is not required to be free, but it must be a low-cost, affordable option for low-income communities. In addition to affordability, the judges will be looking for a distribution plan that provides enough funding for the solution to be maintained post-launch. A reasonable fee could potentially be a part of that sustainability plan.

How will award amounts be determined and how is the grant money distributed?
Approximately 20 to 30 grant awards will be made in the amount of $25,000-$500,000 each, based on the scope of your project and the budget you submit. Winners of $25,000 grants will receive the entire grant once they sign the grant agreement. Winners of larger grants will receive a portion of the funds once they sign the grant agreement. The remaining funds will be granted at 6 month intervals over the life of your grant, provided that you are on track to achieve the outcomes you specify in your proposal. All grant winners will be required to provide data and report on development progress and adoption.

What award should I apply for?
If all you have so far is an idea or concept, you should apply for the Minimum Viable Product award of $25,000. This initial award is intended to fund development of a business plan and a product roadmap for developing a minimum viable product.

If you have a product already (even in an early stage), you should apply for a grant award ranging from $100,000-500,000, as follows:

  • If your product pulls in solutions from multiple providers, you should apply for an Aggregators, Systems & Platforms award – either up to $250,000 if you are in an early stage, or up to $500,000 if your product is already live and has a user base of over 10,000 students.
  • If your product addresses only some of the targeted Common Core reading and writing standards or some of the content domains such as fiction, social studies or science, then you should probably apply for a $100,000 Supplemental Solution award.
  • If your product addresses most or all of the standards and content required for one or more grades, you should apply for a Comprehensive Solution award of up to $500,000.

What technical requirements should my solution meet?
We encourage all applicants to review the Technical Interoperability Requirements in Appendix 1 of the RFP. Applicants for grants of $100,000 or more are required to address these requirements in their product development.


What criteria will be used to assess proposals?
We invite you to explore the Challenge through the background information and submission requirements detailed in the Literacy Courseware Challenge Request for Proposal (RFP).

Proposals will be assessed on the basis of the solution’s student impact and feasibility of use, and the team’s capacity to deliver.

Your proposal must include:

  • An Application Narrative (10 pages maximum), including a link to a 3-minute video
  • Documentation of your organization’s tax status and finances
  • Simple budget template
  • Outcomes and milestones chart (Appendix A)

Who will judge the Challenge applications?
The applications will be judged by a panel of practitioners, researchers in literacy and technology, and funders. The panel will be led by Gates Foundation program officers Emily Dalton Smith, Meghan Amrofell, and Robert Torres.


Do I retain intellectual property ownership?
Yes, all entrants, regardless of winner status, will retain intellectual property ownership of their software applications. However, winners must agree to support global access objectives by conducting and managing the project and information in a manner that enables (a) the knowledge gained during the project to be promptly and broadly disseminated and (b) the intended products to be made available and accessible for free or at reasonable cost to the people most in need. For more details, please see the Sample Terms and Conditions that will be included in the grant agreement.


How do I submit my proposal?
Click here to begin submitting a Literacy Courseware Challenge proposal. Detailed instructions are included in the RFP and there are straightforward directions on the application portal. If you have any further questions, please contact us by email.


How will my proposal submission be used?
As a general policy, the foundation does not publish proposals.

Once we make a grant, we are required by the IRS to publish a list of grants that we have made. We also provide a general description of the grant on our web sites including These brief descriptions are also made available in press releases and other marketing materials.


What support does the Literacy Courseware Challenge provide for developers?
The foundation will provide a range of supports, including grants up to $500,000, an in-school pilot program, an external product evaluation, and inclusion in foundation sponsored convenings and workshops.

Startup Weekend EDU will be hosting weekend hackathons where you may meet other people interested in responding to the Challenge. See Startup Weekend EDU for more details.


What schools will participate in the pilot program?
The foundation will recruit pilot schools from among its grantee network, including schools in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, the College Achievement Network, and the Next Generation Learning Challenges.


What kind of courseware are you looking for exactly?
The Challenge is looking for innovative, engaging, personalized web--based solutions that integrate both writing and reading skills to help students master the Common Core State Standards for literacy at the 4th – 8th grade levels. See the RFP for more complete details on the priority literacy skills, use cases, and feature/functionality.


What are the key Challenge dates?

 February 4   Literacy Courseware Challenge RFP released
 March 29  Completed proposals due by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time (PT)
 April  Proposals reviewed by external review panel and foundation review team
 April 30  Finalists notified
 May  Work with finalists to complete due diligence and organizational review, and finalize grant agreements
 June  Grants awarded and announced when grant agreements are signed

Where can I check or update the status of my application?
You can access the application portal at You can save the application and return to it later by logging in any time with your email address and password. You can also assume once your application has been submitted, it is considered final and no other changes can be made.

How do I follow the Literacy Courseware Challenge and receive updates?
The foundation will provide updates on its social media platforms, including @GatesEd, @drvickip, and @gatespress on Twitter and the Gates Foundation’s Facebook page. Winners will be announced on this website.


If I am a finalist, when will I get feedback on my proposal?
Organizations selected for investment will be notified on April 30.

Due to the large number of proposals anticipated, applicants for proposals that are not selected for awards will receive a notification of decline with the scored rubric results of their proposal.


Whom can I contact if I have a question about the Literacy Courseware Challenge?
For any questions regarding the Literacy Courseware Challenge, please contact us by email.

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