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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Announcing The Alliance for the American Dream initiative

A kickoff press conference was held May 16 announcing 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–Madison is one of four universities selected to participate in the inaugural program.

Lonnie Berger at Schmidt Futures Press Conference(left: Lonnie Berger, Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty)

The Alliance challenges our community to produce innovative ideas for increasing the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10% by the year 2020. The University’s Institute for Research on Poverty will lead the proposal-development process. At least one team from each participating university will advance to receive continuing support in 2019.


Although Dane County’s median household income (approximately $65,000) is relatively high and its unemployment rate is low, significant racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities abound. For example, Black household median income is below $30,000 and the minority unemployment rate is over 20%. 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 Alliance for the American Dream 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 the Alliance for the American Dream and who is funding it?

The Alliance for the American Dream is a new community-university collaboration funded by Schmidt Futures that aims to promote shared prosperity and increase American competitiveness.

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 the Alliance, and who is leading UW’s effort?

The first challenge of The Alliance of the American Dream at UW 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.

Norman Drinkwater at Schmidt Futures press conference

(left: Norman Drinkwater, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education)

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.

Aug.-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 campus-community collaborations) will be supported with additional funding and resources to develop full proposals.

Oct.-Nov. 2018: Development teams will meet to complete at least 10 full, viable proposals by Thanksgiving.

Dec.2018-Jan. 2019: A local community-campus advisory board will choose 3 of the proposals to be advanced to the broader Alliance (semi-final) level by December 10. At least one team from each university will advance to receive continuing support in 2019.

How can community members get involved?

Attend a community forum or help us schedule a visit to your organization’s next meeting.

Start talking to people and generating ideas! Watch the news, social media, and website for more information about Alliance activities and how to submit a proposal later this summer.

Where can I learn more?

Schmidt Futures:

UW’s Alliance initiative:

Phone: (608) 265-1054