Although Dane County’s median household income is relatively high (~$65,000) and its unemployment rate is low, significant racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities abound. For example, black household median income is approximately $30,000 and unemployment rates for people of color are often more than double rates for white people. Over 50% of Dane county renters spend more than 30% of their household income on rent, and limited access to public transportation, services, and economic opportunities challenge rural communities. The DreamUp Wisconsin initiative will bring together Dane County’s strong community, business, government, and non-profit networks to partner with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to meet these challenges, and expand economic security and shared prosperity in the County.
What is DreamUp Wisconsin, and who is funding it?
- DreamUp Wisconsin is the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s (UW’s) implementation of The Alliance for the American Dream, a new community-university collaboration funded by Schmidt Futures that aims to promote shared prosperity and increase American competitiveness. UW is one of four public universities chosen by Schmidt Futures to partner in this work.
- Schmidt Futures is a venture facility for public benefit that works to advance society through technology, inspire breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promote shared prosperity.
What is the goal of DreamUp, and who is leading UW’s effort?
- The first challenge of The Alliance of the American Dream, and, thus, for DreamUp, is a call for proposals—whether policy ideas or investable concepts for public benefit—to raise net income by 10% for 10,000 middle class families in Dane County. Proposals may focus on increasing income or decreasing costs of living (e.g., child care, transportation, housing, energy).
- Proposals should be interdisciplinary, grounded in modern technological tools and data science, and both draw from and benefit a diverse set of people and communities.
- The UW Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) is excited to lead the initiative with its many campus partners, local organizations, government leaders, and community members.
What is the timeline for the initiative?
- May–July 2018: IRP will facilitate community forums, meetings, and interviews, and engage in data analysis to help define and understand Dane County’s economic challenges.
- July–Sept. 2018: IRP will work with the campus and community to generate potential solutions and initial proposal ideas. At least 10 ideas (which must include community-campus collaborations) will be chosen by a community-campus review committee to be supported with additional funding and resources to develop full proposals by Thanksgiving.
- Sept.–Nov. 2018: Development teams will meet to complete at least 10 full, viable proposals.
- Dec. 2018–Jan. 2019: A local community-campus review committee will choose 3 of the proposals to be advanced to the broader Alliance (semi-final) level by December 10. Schmidt Futures has committed to further supporting at least one team from each partnering university in 2019.
How can community members get involved?
- Schedule a visit to your organization’s next meeting; attend a forum; submit ideas via our website.
- Start talking to people and generating ideas! Watch the news, social media, and website for more information about DreamUp activities and how to submit a proposal this summer
Where can I learn more?
- Schmidt Futures: https://schmidtfutures.com/our-work/alliance-american-dream/
- UW’s DreamUp Wisconsin initiative: https://www.irp.wisc.edu/dreamup/
- Contact us: DreamUpAlliance@wisc.edu, (608-265-1054)
DreamUp Wisconsin Resident Interviews
- What makes it difficult for families to get ahead financially in Dane County?
- What could help families decrease their expenses or increase their incomes?
These are the key questions of the DreamUp WI challenge, and understanding the needs of the Dane County community and which solutions will work for community members is crucial to our success.
DreamUp Wisconsin graduate students spent the summer interviewing 168 Dane County residents at community centers, local businesses, libraries, schools, and public events to get their answers to these questions. Their findings are summarized in a flyer.
DreamUp Wisconsin Events
- April 3DreamUp Wisconsin ShowcaseInstitute for Research on Poverty Event5:00 PM, Concerto Room (241 B and C), Gordon Dining and Event Center, 770 W. Dayton Street, Madison, WI
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Use our contact form to tell us about:
What is standing in the way of growing the middle class in Dane County?
How can we boost the income or reduce expenses of 10,000 families in Dane County by $4,000?
Are there any organizations, upcoming events or meetings we should connect with?
IRP is thrilled to lead this bold, new initiative, and to marshal the abundant intellectual and creative resources of this campus and this community to improve the lives of families in Dane County and beyond, in concrete ways. This is both a practical and visionary expression of the Wisconsin Idea, and we are anxious to begin.Lawrence Berger, director of IRP and a professor in the School of Social Work
DreamUp Wisconsin is a university and community collaboration—that’s pretty unique—and it’s a way to figure out how to get about 4,000 more dollars into the hands of struggling families by 2020 by raising income or cutting costs like childcare or health care.
—Amanda Quintana, WISC-TV
Channel 3000, May 16, 2018
“Our intent is not to create a new, separate community process, but rather to support the terrific ongoing community work and networks in Dane County and to work together to create feasible proposals for expanding and stabilizing the middle class. The process is intended to produce a set of fleshed-out, shovel ready plans that can then be implemented in the county.”
—IRP Director Lawrence Berger
The Daily Cardinal, May 20, 2018
“We hope to reach out across all communities and make this as diverse as we can. Clearly there’s divisions by race, there’s divisions by ethnicity, there’s divisions by geography when you look at incomes in Dane County. And one of the questions here is do we have some ideas as to what would work across all of those different areas? So I think the things we might end up test piloting are the ideas that we think will be really promising to decrease those divisions.”
—University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank
“Though Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is as low as it’s been in years (2.9% in April), pockets of the state remain virtually untouched by the good times.”
—David D. Haynes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 18, 2018
Noted in the News
Kathryn Larson, “$13 Million Grant Proposal Hopes to Raise Wage for Dane County Childcare Workers,” Spectrum News, February 13, 2019.
Amanda Quintana, “UW launches ‘DreamUp’ initiative to collect ideas from community to raise income of middle class,” Channel 3000, May 16, 2018.
Lisa Speckhard Pasque, “UW–Madison will partner with community to raise incomes of 10,000 Dane County families by 2020,” The Cap Times, May 17, 2018.
Mark Sommerhauser, “UW–Madison joins former Google chairman’s group to boost incomes in Dane County,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 17, 2018.
David D. Haynes, “UW–Madison competing for former Google CEO’s cash in a bid to boost middle-class income,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 18, 2018.
Robyn Cawley, “UW administrators, Madison community join forces to seek poverty solution in Dane County,” The Daily Cardinal, May 20, 2018.
Nicholas Garton, “‘DreamUp Wisconsin’ initiative looks to bolster middle class,” Madison 365, May 21, 2018.