Over the weekend, corporate designers used their skills to make a difference. Friday and Saturday, the Capital One campus in west Plano hosted the annual Barn Raise, an event organized through Capital One’s Adaptive Path program.

The event is named for the old-school practice of communities coming together to build a barn. In a similar vein, the Barn Raise brought together nonprofits and corporate designers to find solutions to social problems.

Stephen P. Anderson, head of design at Capital One’s Innovation Garage, said this year’s Barn Raise addressed population growth in North Texas.

According to a study from the Capital One Finance in support of Future Edge, the North Texas area is expected to double its population in 10 years, and growth like that can impact education, infrastructure, business development, skills in technology and more.

“The great thing about the Barn Raise is it’s really pulling from two groups,” he said, like the designers from Capital One in Plano, Slalom, Project202 and Intuit and local nonprofits like Youth with Faces, Commit!, Big Thought and Uplift Education.

Since population growth impacts many facets of life, the groups designed solutions for individual issues under that umbrella. Many of the solutions were skill-specific, Anderson said, with special emphasis on digital literacy.

“If you look out over the next 10 years, there’s potentially a gap in digital literacy and skills there, so that’s what we want to address,” he said. “That seems like the biggest opportunity to make a difference,” he said.

During last year’s inaugural Capital One Barn Raise in San Francisco, 80 percent of the proposed solutions were enacted. So at the close of Plano’s Barn Raise, nonprofits will take the design solutions and enact several of the proposed plans.

Together, Capital One designers and representatives from the education nonprofit Commit! addressed how to get more young children enrolled in early childhood pre-K programs.

Commit! partners with over 200 organizations including school districts, nonprofits and philanthropy organizations to help provide data that schools can use for the future, like test scores, absentee data, suspension data, AP class information, teacher satisfaction and more.

“Having the brain power and the creativity of the Capital One team is really helping us by providing corporate America level skill sets to a nonprofit problem that is a huge issue,” said Rob Shearer, director of communication for Commit!

For years, Commit! has worked to get more young children enrolled in high-quality pre-K programs. Students in economically disadvantaged homes hear 30 million fewer words than middle income families, and Shearer said this gap in language and development continues to grow year after year. Studies show by the third grade, when students have to take the state standardized reading test, low-income students are not reading on grade level, which has even larger consequences down the road, Shearer said.

“If you can read by the third grade, you’re four times more likely to graduate from high school,” he said. And pre-K education could be the key to close the gap between low-income and middle income students to afford them the same opportunities for advancement.

“We’ve got to do something between 0 and 5 [years old] to help these kids get a head start so we can cut down on that word gap, so we can make sure that they’re ready to learn by the time they hit kindergarten. We’re trying to make sure we’re leveling the playing field a little bit and giving every kid the shot that they deserve,” he said.

Together at the Barn Raise, the team created a texting, educational solution to share more information on the impacts of pre-K programs. “Empower them to make a difference for their kid,” Shearer said, “and that is something we will apply across Dallas County, and probably across North Texas.”

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