MADISON, Wis - On Wednesday the University of Wisconsin - Madison launched The Alliance for the American Dream, a collaboration between the community and the university to produce ideas to increase the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10 percent by the year 2020.
Schmidt Futures is funding the project the university is calling the "Dream Up" initiative. It will be led by the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW.
The school is one of four universities chosen to participate in the program.
"The boundaries of the campus do not stop at the edge of our campus but indeed go across the state, and across the nation and the world, but particularly within Dane County, which is the focus of this particular project," said UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank.
The Institute for Research on Poverty is calling for proposals. The ideas must include a university-community collaboration and both draw from and benefit a diverse set of people and communities.
IRP will also attend community forums and talk to people at bus stops and libraries to ask them what they believe is standing in the way of growing the middle class in Dane County.
"Think about roughly how can you put $4,000 more in people's pockets? So how much of a wage increase would that be? How much of a decrease in child care costs? How much of a decrease in commuting costs?" said Lonnie Berger, IRP director.
Although the median income in the county is about $65,000 with only 3 percent unemployment, there are racial and geographic disparities. United Way of Dane County said the black household median income is below $30,000 and the minority unemployment rate is over 20 percent.
"The community tells you what it needs if you listen. And this provides a new way for us to listen in smarter and better ways and hopefully curate more ideas to be able to help get to where we all want to be," said Renee Moe, president and CEO of United Way Dane County.
Between August and September of 2018, 10 ideas will be chosen to be supported with additional funding and resources to be developed into full proposals.
A community-campus advisory board will then choose three proposals to advance by December.
Schmidt Futures has committed to funding at least one proposal from each university through 2019.