University-Community Partnerships Show the Power of the Wisconsin Idea in the DreamUp Competition

In case you missed the recent story on the DreamUp project, I want tell folks on campus about it. It is a wonderful example of UW-Madison’s involvement in our local Madison community and of the Wisconsin Idea in practice.

You may recall that a little over a year ago, Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, launched an initiative tasking four universities across the country with reducing poverty in their local communities. At UW, the effort is named DreamUp Wisconsin and is housed in the Institute for Research on Poverty. (The other participating schools were Arizona State University, the University of Utah, and The Ohio State University).

The goal was to come up with project ideas that would expand and strengthen the middle class by increasing the net income of 10,000 households in Dane County by 10 percent by 2020, while also focusing on reducing local economic disparities that are based on race, ethnicity, and geography.

Over the last year, the DreamUp Wisconsin team at UW–Madison worked with groups across the county, talking with nearly 1,000 people, about innovative ways to address the challenges lower income families face. Eleven teams earned $10,000 to further develop their ideas, and two teams from Wisconsin were chosen to present their ideas to Schmidt Futures in the final round of competition on June 27.  (We were the only university invited to send two teams to the final competition.)

One proposal, Legal Interventions for Transforming (LIFT) Dane, was one of two provisionally awarded $1 million to move forward. LIFT is designed to provide legal services and advice using an online platform to individuals facing large debts and other legal barriers that might limit employment, housing, and economic stability. The second Wisconsin proposal, We Care for Dane Kids, was provisionally awarded $300,000. We Care is designed to transform the early child and after school care sectors by increasing employee use of and employer contributions to dependent care tax benefits, expanding access to child care subsidies, supplementing child care workers’ wages, and using shared services networks to reduce operating expenses. Both of these projects will be working to raise further funds to fully implement their plans.

At the end of the final competition, all competing teams were asked to vote on the projects they were most excited about. The two Wisconsin projects tied for first place in this vote, and both of them received an extra provisional $100,000 as a result.

Part of what made these teams successful is that they are based on robust partnerships – in LIFT’s case, between the Law School, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Employment and Training Association (EATA) of Dane County and in We Care’s case, between our schools of Social Work and Education and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, Reach Dane, Satellite Family Child Care Systems, the city of Madison, Madison Out-of-School Time and TASC.

Both of these projects bring together people from UW-Madison, with leaders from a number of community-based organizations in the Madison area. They show the power of university-community partnerships, and what we can accomplish when we work together.

Congratulations to those who worked on both of these projects.

Meanwhile, a second round of the competition has already been launched, and meetings are held on Thursdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Initial Round 2 proposals are due October 1. For more information visit, or contact DreamUp Community Relations Coordinators Peng Her at or Bridgit Van Belleghem at