The Project

In the beginning of 2012, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, launched a multi-year initiative known as Race to Equity. The central goal of the project is to explore, measure, and analyze the extent and pattern of racial disparities on key well-being and outcome measures between African Americans and whites living in Dane County, Wisconsin. Our long-term aspiration is to use this data and analysis as a foundation for advancing collective action towards solutions.

Initial Scope of the Project

At the outset of our planning for this project, we envisioned putting together an initial report that encompassed all the major racial and ethnic groups in the county. An initial evaluation of the quality and completeness of available statistics, however, persuaded us that we should begin our data collection and analysis with a primary focus on African Americans, and on how that group’s numbers contrasted with those of the county’s white majority.

We recognized, of course, that significant disparities (with whites) also exist for other communities of color: Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. And we fully realize the equal importance of addressing the equity challenges that each of these other groups face. Nonetheless, several practical considerations (demographic information, severity of disparities, and staff’s academic, personal and cultural expertise with the African American experience) argued for beginning with the county’s African American population.

All that said, it remains our hope and intention that if we use our core competencies to demonstrate effective ways of collecting, presenting, analyzing, and acting on the disparity data as it affects the black community, we will have a strong foundation for securing the additional resources, partnerships, and increased capacity needed to extend this kind of equity advocacy to all communities of color in the next phase of the work.

The Plan

Race to Equity will focus on four activities to reduce racial disparities in Dane County:



Gather information about and learn from what has been done in the past.

We are not the first to point to these problems and urge solutions. For decades, many individuals and organizations in the county and state have worked to combat these alarming inequities, and some very promising approaches and initiatives have been undertaken. We applaud these efforts and hope to learn from them and build on them. This work is vital for focusing our next steps and building partnerships for success.


Identify and disseminate the relevant data in health, education, child welfare and criminal justice to all stakeholders.

We want to focus in on those measures that are most predictive of good or bad life outcomes. Examples of the indicators we will investigate include: low birth weight, infant mortality, school readiness, family disruption and out of home placement, third grade reading, middle school proficiencies, adolescent pregnancy, high school graduation, post secondary education and training, and involvement with the justice system. Our intent is to present these data in ways that are accessible to the public and policymakers, that can be monitored and tracked over time, and that encourage reflection and thoughtful action across diverse audiences.

Provide tools for the analysis, evaluation and prioritization of both problems and solutions.

This step will include identifying and disseminating the research on causes and contributors behind key disparities; highlighting the most promising evidence-based disparity reduction strategies; facilitating comment and analysis by subject-matter experts, both local and national; and thoroughly exploring the roles that poverty, family structure, institutional and system behavior, bias, and community context may play in explaining disparity patterns. Our early inquiries have led us to a special interest in determining how the characteristics, social capital, and institutional make-up of particular neighborhoods may contribute to specific disparities.



Create mechanisms for engagement, resulting in more coordinated and comprehensive actions and investments aimed at reducing racial disparities.

The project will work to create space for dialogue, debate and consensus around actions, programs, policies and investments capable of narrowing the identified racial disparities. We hope this engagement will build a shared information base among advocates, researchers, policymakers, community leaders, media and the general public. We also hope to enhance collective problem solving by inviting comment and guidance from organizations and leaders who have effectively tackled disparity challenges both here in Wisconsin and around the country. In addition, our aim is to help convert community consensus around priority goals into a sustainable advocacy network committed to a set of accountable, measureable action plans that can serve as the blueprint for reducing the county’s racial disparities within the next decade. Finally, we hope that what we learn here will be relevant to other communities in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the country. We do not underestimate the work involved to bring about the necessary actions, but we believe that coalescing around community priorities and implementing approaches the community has agreed upon can boost the odds of success and lead to achievements that to date have been elusive.

Project Logic Model

Context/ Inputs




  • WI has one of the highest rates of racial disparity in the nation across numerous domains
  • Dane County has one of the highest levels of disparity in WI
  • Dane is often considered one of the best places to live in America
  • Dane is relatively resource rich and progressively minded
  • WCCF investment of full time project manager, leadership and data analysis capacity (backbone organization)
  • Cross systems catalyst and information aggregator
  • Connection to national resources and experts
Phase I: Setting Baseline
  • Gather info on previous efforts
  • Gather and distribute data on disparity
    • Health
    • Education
    • Economic Security
    • Community Context
    • Justice
    • Child Welfare
  • Research (through review of the literature) the causes of and contributors to racial disparities in the county
Phase II: Engagement
  • Create space for dialogue, debate and prioritization.
  • Build shared information base and broader, common understanding about importance for all Dane residents
Phase III: Building Solutions
  • Identify and disseminate research
  • Highlight evidence-based disparity reduction strategies
  • Facilitate input from content experts
  • Report that summarizes racial disparity status (and tracks it over time)
  • Identification of evidence informed practices to decrease disparities in focus areas
  • Prioritization of key action steps to decrease disparities
  • Increased understanding of racial disparities in Dane county by the general public
  • Increased alignment and collaboration between groups working on this issue
  • Ongoing, robust initiative to decrease racial disparities that includes: data tracking, common agenda, communications, community engagement, program implementation and systems reform.
  • Increased public and political will to continue to address and decrease racial disparity over the long haul.
  • Increased investment in practices, resource allocations and workforce development that have the potential to reduce racial disparities
  • Improved outcomes for African Americans in Dane County in areas of focus
  • Decreased racial disparities between African Americans and Whites in Dane County in areas of focus